Sizing Up Squash

Please review carefully these 'Eight Ball' squash picked at various times this week.

Now which one was picked at the right time?

Take your time, there are four choices. We'll call the big one "far left", the next one "next to left" the small one "far right" and the one next to it "next to right".

Do you have your answer in mind? Are you sure?

The answer is:

Far right.

Yes, the smallest one was picked at the correct time, and actually might be a little better if it were just a tiny bit smaller.

So if we all know the smaller one is the best one, why did I let the others grow so big? That's a rhetorical question, so you don't need to answer it. Really. We all know how squash grows. One minute it looks like it is "almost big enough", so we decide to wait to pick it. Then we go back an hour later and it is ginormous and might be best hidden in the compost pile.

In defense of myself and others with overgrown squash, sometimes the garden fairies don't even let us see the squash when it is the right size to pick. They hide it under the leaves until it is huge and then uncover it for the gardener to find. If you are really quiet, you can hear the fairies off hiding in the tomato patch laughing as you spy that big squash and think "how did I miss that one?"

Or occasionally the gardener just gets lazy and doesn't check the squash for a few days. A watched squash never grows, but an unwatched squash grows quickly.

But we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves for letting a few squash get out of hand. "Squash happens", as they say, and it wouldn't be mid-summer without a few ginormous squash sitting on the kitchen counter for the gardener to contemplate on, to size up and ask, "Now how am I going to use that squash?"

Updated later in the day...

Still not convinced that size matters? Here's the biggest and smallest squash cut in half. See how big the seeds are in the big squash.Plus, the center of the big squash is kind of soft and squishy.

Still not convinced?

Look at these seeds in the big one! They are as big as pumpkin seeds!
You wouldn't want to serve that in your favorite summer squash dish, would you? And because 'Eight Ball' is a hybrid variety, these seeds won't produce the same squash next year so you can't use seed saving as an excuse for growing over-sized squash.

Please pick your squash before it gets like this!


  1. I guessed far right because the color is slightly better and the skin is shiny.

    You are absolutely right about squash. Zuccs can go from finger size to watermelon size in a day! Zucchini casserole on the menu!


  2. 'Right time' to pick, pshaw. Until that squash explodes, its the right time to pick. I mean, I have never laid a zucchini down next to an 8 month old and wondered which was bigger. Not this year at least.

  3. Gardeners who haven't picked summer squash young don't realize it has a different texture and flavor. A lot of squash recipes out there were developed to "use up" less than optimum squash rather than take advantage of peak flavor.

    Your far left one I would split in half and let the chickens pick out the seeds. But you don't have chickens, and it's probably more trouble than it's worth to clean off the seeds to see if the birds will eat them.

  4. Yep, and it looks healthy and yummy! I hope to see some zucchini soon in my garden as well.

  5. My summer squash burned up. You gave me a reminder to start some more seedlings for the fall garden. Off to plant.

  6. I guessed right because the same thing has happened to mom & to me. My parents have a photo in their albums of my mom holding a zucchini that's about the same size as our Dachsund. Your statement that an unwatched squash grows quickly is so true, it's almost an understatement.

  7. Hi Carol,

    I didn't have to guess because we've talked for years about how delicious small squash can be - but I do have to be jealous about your beautiful harvest!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. While the one of the far right is the "correct" size, I'm sure the big guys are still good to use, if one scoops out the big seeds. I guess it depends on the recipe, as Kathy points out. But I relate to the "hiding" cukes/squashes/etc phenomenon - I've "seen" it myself.

  9. I guess I'd better keep an eye on my mystery cucurbit! I'll check on it tonight when I get home from work!

  10. I'm growing cue ball for the first time this year: Thanks for showing me I should be picking them earlier because the centers were seedy on the ones I picked. But the problem is, the silly things hide, just as you described!


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