Pattypan squash
Pattypan squash, grown and photographed by Kate Stauffacher

Like many gardeners, Kate Stauffacher tried something new last season: pattypan squash, which looks a little bit like a flying saucer.

“They were great additions to our garden. Because they produced so many squash, I had to try all sorts of recipes plus give many to family and friends,” Kate says.

Here’s how she used her abundant crop:

  1. Slice vertically, mix with garlic and olive oil and grill or fry them. They have a nutty flavor — much more flavor than zucchini.
  2. Roast them in the oven with sliced peppers and onions.
  3. Make pattypan soup, “which is very tasty.”
  4. Cut the top off horizontally, seed, stuff and bake — like stuffed peppers. “I did this with some of the larger ones that got away from me.”
  5. Shred, shape into patties and freeze to make into hash browns in the winter.

“I will definitely be planting these again next year,” Kate says.

How to Grow Pattypan Squash

As Kate discovered, summer squash are known to be quite productive. Think zucchini. They can start producing edible fruit just seven weeks after planting seeds and, if you keep the fruit picked, they’ll produce fruit until frost. Almost all are best when eaten young and tender.

Summer squash do not take up as much space as winter squash. Most grow from a central point, forming a bush rather than a long vine. Some types, like pattypan, grow on a vine, though it’s much shorter (about 5 feet) than vines for winter squash. They need full sun, consistent moisture, and rich, organic soil.

You can start summer squash by seed directly in the garden, once all danger of frost has passed. The seeds can also be planted indoors. Start with a 2″ to 3″ pot, such as a 2.75″ Cowpot which can be transplanted right into the ground. Plant two seeds per pot and snip one of the seedlings when it’s clear which one is thriving most. Once germinated, seedlings will need plenty of light such as a bright, south-facing window. Even better, develop the seedlings under grow lights or in a greenhouse.

The goal is to grow a seedling that’s large — but not too large — when it’s safe to plant outdoors. Make your start date about three weeks before the last average frost date in your area. A sturdy seedling that’s 3 to 3 1/2″ tall with two or more sets of “true leaves” is just right. If grown indoors too long — or in too large a pot — the plants will be unwieldy and difficult to transplant. All squash resent having their roots disturbed, so if you’re starting the plants indoors, make sure the root ball does not fall apart while planting. The advantage to starting seeds in pots is twofold: You start the season with larger plants and you put out plants that are less vulnerable to striped cucumber beetles.

In regions where the striped cucumber beetles (Acalymma vittatum) are present – from the east coast heading west into the Rocky Mountain region – the best prevention is covering plants and newly seeded areas with garden fabric (learn more about using row covers over in our advice library). Once the squash reach flowering stage, the covers come off to allow for pollination by insects.

Because pattypan squash are fairly compact, you can grow them successfully in a large container such as the Jumbo Potato Grow Bag.

Mulching your squash bed before the plants get big will keep down weeds and help retain moisture. Summer squash need an inch of water a week, either from the sky or from your hose.

To learn more about growing vegetable crops, visit our Vegetable Encyclopedia over on the Gardener’s Supply advice libary.