Squash generally refers to four (4) different species of the genus Cucurbita: (1)- C. maxima, (2)- C. mixta, (3)- C. moschata, and (4)- C. pepo. However, in North America most people think of squash more in terms of them being grouped as either Summer Squash, or, as Winter Squash. The reference to summer and winter is not based on when the seeds are planted, rather it is an indication of whether the squash are harvested as immature (summer squash) or mature (winter squash).
1. Summer squash is a subset of squashes that are harvested when immature (while the rind is still tender and edible). All summer squashes are the fruits of the species Cucurbita pepo (although not all squashes of this species are considered summer squashes), but they are considered vegetables in terms of culinary use. The name "summer squash" refers to the short storage life of these squashes, unlike that of winter squashes. Summer squashes include:
• Yellow types like Yellow Straightneck and Dixie Hybrid.
• Zucchini types like Black Beauty and Ambassador.
• Scallop types like Peter Pan and Bennings Green Tint.
• Italian “gourd” types like Cucuzzi
2. Winter squash is a summer-growing annual vegetable representing several species within the genus Cucurbita. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the internal seeds have fully matured and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, most varieties of this fruit can be stored for use during the winter, hence the name “winter squash”.
• Acorn types like Table King and Table Queen.
• Banana types like Pink Banana.
• Buttercup types like Burgess Buttercup.
• Butternut types like Waltham Butternut.
• Hubbard types like Golden Hubbard.
• Spaghetti types like Vegetable Spaghetti.
• Several Miscellaneous types including Delicata.
Summer and winter squash are a frost-tender vegetable and their seeds typically require a minimum soil temperature of 60 °F to germinate. Gourds and Pumpkins are from the same family as squashes, too, and the same attention must be paid to planting them.
Winter squash is a low-calorie vegetable that is also a good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber. It is a very good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. Add to the list: folate, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamin, vitamin B6, niacin and vitamin B5. Winter squash is also well-known for its beta carotene content, and usually, the darker the skin, the higher its amounts of Beta carotene.
Summer squash has similar nutritional profiles, and most of the nutrients are found in or just below the peel. It also contains a high percentage of vitamin D, but not the concentration of Beta carotene found in most winter squashes. Summer squash, such as zucchini and yellow squash, is also a good source of manganese, copper and vitamin K.