I’ve been coming across a lot of great “winter comfort food” recipes – casseroles, hearty pasta dishes and soups lately – on blogs, recipe sites and even in national magazines. There’s just one problem with a fair number of them – they call for zucchini. What’s the issue with this? Well, zucchini is not a winter squash! Zucchini is, in fact, a summer squash.
But what exactly is the difference between summer and winter squashes? The main point is storage life. Summer squashes (like zucchini, crooknecks, and patty pans) are meant to be harvested young with a “soft” rind and eaten fresh. Off the vine, they have a storage life of 3-4 days, maybe a week. Winter squashes (like butternut, acorn, and hubbards) are meant to be harvested mature with a hard rind. They can be stored for months on end in the right pantry conditions.
And this is my primary issue with zucchini in March. Yes, you can get it at most major supermarkets all year round, but it’s grown in climates much warmer than ours and many thousands of miles away. Zucchini is not, and cannot, be a “winter comfort food” staple. If you want squash in your winter soup or casserole, you’re better off with an acorn squash, blue hubbard or the like. Otherwise, leave it out.
For me, zucchini calls to mind wonderful height of summer dishes – lightly battered and fried yellow blossoms, fresh minestrone soup bursting with vine-ripened tomatoes and tender bites of zucchini, grated zucchini muffins with a small dollop of butter. Zucchini is a wonderful squash and very versatile in the kitchen – in the summer months.