Squashes and pumpkins are in the cucurbit family, being closely related to courgettes, melons and cucumbers. They grow from large, vibe-like plants and bear fruit in summer and autumn. Squashes are broadly separated into two categories: summer squash and winter squash. Summer squash include patty pan squash and are ready to harvest in summer. Winter squash include pumpkins and butternut squash, and are ready to harvest in autumn for eating into winter.
Squashes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from traditional pumpkin shapes to smaller, elongated and round fruits. They vary in colour, too, with green, yellow and bluish varieties. Some cultivars have blotched skin, while others are elegantly ribbed. They all have subtle differences in flavour, too.
Squashes are easy to grow, as long as they are growing in a fertile soil and watered frequently.Pumpkins and squash are packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamins, particularly beta carotene (Vitamin A) and Vitamin C. Low in calories, many squash varieties are useful in using as a potato substitute. Regularly eating squash is thought to be good for your skin and eyes.
More on growing pumpkins and squash:
Browse our list of squash to grow, below.
Types of summer squash
Patty pan squash
Patty pan squash are small, yellow, hard squashes with a light, nutty flavour. They’re as easy to grow as courgettes and can be used in place of courgettes in recipes, too.
Crookneck squashes are club-shaped with a long, curved neck. They can be have a smooth or rough surface, and have a creamy flesh with a delicious nutty flavour.
Types of winter squash
Squash ‘Sweet Dumpling’
‘Sweet Dumpling’ bears dozens of small fruits, just right for baking whole. Each is prettily ribbed in green: inside you’ll find orange flesh with a good flavour. They store well into winter.
Squash ‘Crown Prince’
‘Crown Prince’ is one of the best squashes for storing – it keeps for months. The bright orange flesh tastes a little like sweet potatoes, and has a good, dense texture. Boiled then liquidised with milk and butter, it makes a lovely, creamy soup.
Pumpkin ‘Jack o’ Lantern’
This is your go-to pumpkin for Hallowe’en, producing classic round fruits in brilliant orange that are made for carving and sweet to eat, too.
A great all-rounder producing dozens of small fruits with firm, tasty orange flesh that’s at its best drizzled with olive oil then slow-roasted.
This should enthral the kids with its ghoulish, warty skin. Behind the lumps and bumps, the flesh is dense and yellow, perfect for pumpkin pies.
Prized for its intense flavour. There are several variations, but all are compact so won’t swamp smaller gardens with the small, easy-to-peel fruit. ‘Kabocha’ squash (Japanese winter pumpkin) bears small fruits with dark green skin and bright yellow-orange flesh. It’s perfect for using in soups or roasting and is delicious stuffed.
Squash ‘Uchiki Kuri’
Sometimes called red onion squash, this variety scrambles over trellis and is early to ripen. The real draw, though, is its smoky, chestnutty flavour.
The medium-sized, bright-orange fruits of pumpkin variety ‘Becky’ are great for carving for Halloween, and are excellent for cooking too.
Squash ‘Turk’s Turban’
This distinctive-looking winter squash has it’s own ‘turban’ or ‘cap’. It has an excellent flavour and can be roasted, or stuffed and baked like a marrow. It also makes a good soup.
Squash ‘Golden Hubbard’
The fruits of ‘Golden Hubbard’ are small, with finely grained skin. They have light-coloured flesh with a good flavour. Perfect for freezing and using in soups, ‘Golden Hubbard’ also stores well.
‘Harlequin’ bears distinctive gold and yellow fruits. They have high sugar levels, making them perfect for pan frying – the flesh caramelises beautifully.
Acorn squash takes its name from its shape, which some say resembles an upside-down acorn with an undersized cap. The skin is a rich dark green and the bright orange flesh has a sweet, nutty flavour. It’s ideal for roasting and stuffing.
Squash ‘Golden Nugget’
‘Golden Nugget’ has grapefruit-sized fruits. They have a salmon-coloured, ridged, dull skin, and sweet, buttery flesh. Bake whole or halved, and puree the flesh into soups and pies.
‘Hooligan’ has small fruits, around 8cm across. They have orange and white mottled skin and orange-yellow flesh, which has a good flavour. They’re well suited for baking and pureeing, or stuffing.