Choosing the sweetest squash can be a challenge, as there are so many varieties available. You can grow both summer and winter squash, and between them, they encompass over 100 varieties. Many are tasty and satisfying, with flavors ranging from nutty to buttery, but which are the best for sweetness? If your experience of growing squash has only resulted in the occasional slice of zucchini bread or carving of pumpkin, this is your chance to cultivate and harvest some of the most divine varieties available.
Squash is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes cucumbers. Often grown and harvested as a vegetable, squash is botanically a fruit. Native to the Andes and Mesoamerica, there are five edible species consumed for their flesh and seeds. They may be referred to as squashes, gourds or pumpkins. We've included winter and squash varieties in our selection of the sweetest. Summer squash is a tender fruit, while winter squash has a harder outer shell to give fruit a longer shelf life.
The Sweetest Squash for Every Season
If you've grown pumpkins for cooking, you'll know they can be used for sweets like pies, quick breads and cookies. But are they the sweetest squash available? Assuming pumpkins are as far as you've ever ventured, prepare to be amazed. Winter squash varieties for those with sweet cravings comes with delectable names, including Bonbon, Buttercup, Carnival, Sweet Dumpling and Tahiti Melon.
Meanwhile, sugary summer squash varieties include Cousa, Papaya Pear, Tatume, Tromboncino and Zephyr. How to pick the best-tasting squash is arguably a matter of personal taste – and you're certainly spoiled for choice. But here are some of the sweetest varieties to grow and harvest.
Best Tasting Winter Squash for Sweetness
Perhaps you've only ever tried winter squash in the form of a pumpkin pie, which has been sweetened with other ingredients? But some of the best-tasting winter squash are also some of the most naturally sweet. Give some of these squash varieties a try, and you’ll see each has unique characteristics.
Highly productive, this tender-fleshed option is the largest of the non-pumpkin varieties. Pink Banana can weigh over 50 pounds (23 kg), with a pale pink or pinky orange skin. Delicious in bakes.
Honeynut looks like a butternut, but has an even sweeter taste. One of the best tasting winter squash for seasonal soups, this honeyed variety is also delightful when roasted and mashed.
Kabocha squash (aka Japanese squash) has a creamy sweetness that is ideal for roasting and stuffing. This squash variety is a staple of Japanese cuisine and it also makes a delicious tempura.
- Also recommended:
- Honey Bear – One of the sweetest varieties of acorn squash, and perfect cut in half and roasted, with no need for a brown sugar topping. It really lives up to its name.
- Delicata – This squash has a thinner edible rind than other winter squashes and is fabulous baked or sliced into soup. Also delicious roasted with maple syrup.
- Butternut – Widely held to be some of the best-tasting squash, butternut squash have a rich, dense taste, evocative of sweet potatoes.
Best Tasting Summer Squash for Sweetness
Many of the best-tasting summer squash have a fresh or nutty taste. These include Green Eggs, Eight Ball and Gold Rush Yellow Zucchini. Indeed, many gardeners have some experience of growing zucchini in the home garden. While it is versatile, zucchini tends to absorb the flavors of other ingredients with which it is cooked. So here are a few of the sweetest summer squash.
Patty Pans are not only beautiful fluted, yellow squash, but they also have a lovely buttery, nutty flavor. Thanks to their firm texture, you can cook them at a relatively high heat. Lovely when roasted or grilled.
Ronde de Nice
This tender French heirloom variety is a baby round zucchini with mellow, sweet flavor. Nutty and creamy, the compact yet generously fleshed Ronde de Nice is perfect for stuffing or roasting.
Cube of Butter
Cube of Butter squash has a creamy white flesh with a buttery flavor. These sunny-skinned, cylindrical fruits can be picked small or large, and are excellent eaten raw or cooked.
Choosing the Sweetest Squash for Cooking
When identifying the sweetest types of squash for cooking, maturity and season have a part to play. Harvest summer squash when the fruit is immature and the rind is tender, and eat either fresh or cooked with the skin on. Eat soon after harvest, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Summer squash is best for grills and stir fries. It generally becomes soft and degrades rapidly if over-cooked.
Winter squash is picked at maturity, and its hard rind is discarded either before or after cooking. The seeds of many winter squashes are delicious roasted. These varieties are ready late summer-early fall. Store them in a cool, dry area for two-four months. Cooked with the skin on or off, they hold up much better to longer cooking times.
Don't Forget the Best-Tasting Blooms
We're sure this selection will satisfy your sweet tooth – but make sure you save some room for the equally tasty floral arrangements. That's right, harvesting squash flowers gives you some of the best-tasting menu accents for celebrations, dinners, or even cheeky snacks. You can eat the bloom from any type of squash, and they are delicious. They taste a bit like a radish and can be eaten fresh or cooked. The best way to cook them is to stuff them or dip them in batter and fry them. Enjoy!
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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