Summer squash come in many different varieties and are an excellent crop for the spring vegetable garden. From zucchini, cocozelle, and straightneck, to yellow croockneck and luffa squash, there are so many different cultivars to grow, depending on what climate you live in. summer squashes grow quickly and are harvested in the summer before they reach full maturity.
Though summer squash does not have a long shelf life as winter squash, there are certain preserving techniques you can follow to keep them for longer. This post will guide you on some practical ways you can preserve summer squash to use it through the winters.
Keep in mind that most experts advise against pressure canning summer squash. However, there are other techniques that you can use to preserve the freshness, flavor and nutrients.
How Long Does Summer Squash Last In The Fridge?
Freshly picked summer squash can last up to a week or ten days when stored in the refrigerator. Keep fresh summer squash in plastic bags or containers when storing it in the fridge. Doing so helps keep the surroundings moist, keeping it fresh for longer. In any case, you’ll need to consume all the vegetables in around 10 days or so before it starts going bad. If you want to keep it for longer, you’ll need to use one of the preservation techniques given below.
How To Preserve Summer Squash
If you have a large harvest of summer squash that you don’t know what to do with, consider preserving it to use it as needed through the winter months. Though pressure canning any variety of summer squash isn’t safe, below are some safe ways to store it.
Start By Choosing The Best Squash
No matter which technique you choose, start by selecting fresh, young squash with tender skin. There should be minimum delay between harvesting or purchasing summer squash and preserving it. If you’re picking you’re own garden’s produce, harvest it while it’s still young and tender. Mature fruits are tough and lose flavor.
Preserving Summer Squash – Three Alternatives
Freezing is the most popular way for storing summer squash for later use. However, you can choose any of the three alternatives described below:
- Wash the squash and cut the ends.
- Cut ½ inch thick slices.
Note: Once the squash is cut into slices, it will start to lose color, so perform the next step instantly.
- Bring water in a pot to boil and transfer sliced pieces of squash to it, leaving it in the boiling water for 3 minutes to blanch it.
- Transfer blanched squash to ice water, leaving it to cool for 3 minutes. This step stops the cooking process, making sure the vegetable does not lose color.
- Drain the squash and transfer it to a plate lined with a baking sheet. Spread them out in a single layer and place them in the freezer until firm.
- Transfer them from the baking sheet into a freezer bag and seal the bag after removing all excess air from it. Leave ½ inch headspace before sealing to allow room for expansion. Vacuum-sealed bags are a good option, but regular ziploc bags will also do the job just fine.
- Label the freezer bag with the date of packing and store them in the freezer.
When stored in the freezer, summer squash will remain fresh for over a year!
If you want to pickle your summer squash harvest, here’s a simple recipe to follow:
- 2.5 pounds fresh squash, washed and sliced
- ¼ cup salt
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups vinegar
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp celery salt
- Add squash and onion to a pot and cover it with salt.
- Let the mixture stand for 2 hours, stirring at intervals.
- To a saucepan, add sugar, vinegar, turmeric, celery salt and mustard seeds and bring them to a boil.
- Drain the liquids given off by the vegetables.
- Pour the spice mixture over the vegetables.
- Let the mixture stand for 2 hours.
- Heat the mixture, bring it to a boil.
- Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Transfer to sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace.
- Seal the lids.
- Process for 15 minutes in boiling water canner to seal completely.
This is just one way to pickle it. You can find more on the internet.
Besides freezing and pickling, you can also preserve summer squash by drying. Zucchini and yellow squash particularly work well for this technique. 10 pounds of fresh squash prepares ¾ pound of dried product. Here’s how to dry it:
- Wash squash and cut out the ends.
- Slice it into ¼ inch slices. It’s important that the slices are uniform in size so they dry at the same rate.
- Steam blanch for three minutes. Alternatively, you can water blanch for 2 minutes.
- Transfer to ice water and let stand for 3 minutes.
- Drain and arrange them on a dehydrator tray in a single layer.
- Use a food dehydrator to dry it for 10 to 16 hours, or until crisp.
- Store it in an airtight container.
Those were all the ways in which you can preserve summer squash and enjoy it through the winters. Though the shelf life of summer squash is just a few days, in contrast to months for winter squash, if you preserve them using one of the methods mentioned above, you can enjoy the fresh flavors of summer vegetables all through the winter season.