Q: What is the difference between ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ squash?
In the time that I have been producing these bulletins for Simon George & Sons I have covered a broad range of topics, though I don’t think I have tackled anything as daunting as the important produce group I am profiling this week- the Cucurbitaceae. Made up of around 960 species, the Cucurbit family produces a fabulously diverse range of fruits (many thought to be vegetables) which have the rare privilege of being considered both everyday items and gourmet favourites in Australia. The Cucurbitaceae family includes Melons (Winter and Summer), Squash, Pumpkins, Cucumbers and Zucchini. Our bulletin this week provides a snapshot of how these products are performing in the markets this Spring, plus links and information on Cucurbit varieties worth a second look as the weather heats up.
ROCKMELON aka Cantaloupe
Rockmelons are available all year but are at their sweet, musky best during Summer (roughly Nov- Mar).
Buyer’s Update: sweet, good quality fruit is well supplied making it one of our best buys this week – (QLD/NT)
Honeydews are available all year round, enjoying a natural peak in Summer (Dec-Jan). The yellow honeydew is a hybrid variety with smooth flesh that is sweet and luscious
Buyer’s Update: sweet, good quality fruit is well supplied making white Honeydew one of our best buys this week – (QLD/NT). Yellow Honeydew is currently available and pricing well
The Casaba looks like a wrinkled, pointy yellow honeydew and boasts a mild, sweet flavour distinct from the musky tones of a rockmelon
Buyer’s Update: not yet available- Casaba is at its best Dec/Feb
Available all year, cucumbers peak in production Dec-May just in time for summer salads. It is the seeds that give a good cucumber its essence, medium sized fruit tend to be best
Buyer’s Update: QLD telegraphs are abundant and good quality making them a BB this week, meanwhile green cucumbers and Lebanese cucumbers are in good supply, good quality and reasonably priced
HORNED MELON aka Kiwano, African Horned Cucumber, Prickly Cucumber
The immature green fruit tends to be referred to as a prickly cucumber and used as vegetable, whereas the mature fruit (distinctive yellow-orange skin) is called a horned melon and used as a fruit
Buyer’s Update: not currently available, in Australia it is grown in QLD with fruit usually available Dec – Mar
Appearance: prickly skin that turns a bright yellow-orange on maturity
Flesh: similar to a cucumber with it has small white seeds enclosed in a green jelly like flesh throughout
Flavour: sweet and tart, these are amazing served chilled
Selection: a general rule is- the brighter the orange colour, the sweeter the flesh
Buyer’s Update: one of our best buys this week after a period of high pricing- seedless and long both performing well (QLD)
From the Moschata species of the Cucurbita genus, the butternut is very popular in Australia due to its versatility and nutty flavour. For further information on butternut squash please visit our previous bulletin – Pumpkin Patch by clicking HERE.
Buyer’s Update:: Butternut is the best buying of the ‘pumpkins’ or rather Cucurbita genus at the moment,
For further information on Pumpkin varieties, their seasonality and usage please visit our previous bulletin – Pumpkin Patch by clicking HERE.
Buyer’s Update: The Jap is limited & expensive at the moment however it is better buying than Jarrahdale which is currently very high in price
YELLOW SQUASH aka button, scallopini, pattypan squash
Button squash remind me of baked dinners, which in turn inspires thoughts of Yorkshire puds but with their sweet, succulent flesh and bright colour button squash are capable of so much more. Available year round with peak fruit arriving Jul-Nov
Buyer’s Update: in consistent supply at the moment, yellow squash is performing well in terms of quality and pricing fair
ZUCCHINI aka Courgette (green/baby/yellow)
Brought to Australia by Italian migrants in the 50s, today zucchinis are available all year and typically best value Jun-Nov
Buyer’s Update: moderate supply of green, yellow limited
Male flowers are not only more economical but the long stems make preparation and cooking much easier if the fruit isn’t required. For more information on zucchini flowers please visit our previous bulletin – Battle of the Sexes by clicking HERE
Buyer’s Update: good supply just in time for spring/summer sides – both female (with fruit) and male (no fruit) are currently available
Long, Hairy and Winter melons are (despite appearances) all the same species. For further information on Asian Melon varieties and their usage please visit our previous bulletin – Asian Melons by clicking HERE.
Hairy melon- in season supply & price good
Long Melon- season just started, the small amount of fruit available however is reasonably priced
Winter Melon- season hasjust started and only limited fruit available however prices fair. Supply peaks late spring/summer
BITTER MELON aka Fu Qua, Balsam Pear, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Cucumber
Buyer’s Update: bitter melons are in season with quality and pricing currently good
SPONGE (SMOOTH) LUFFA and RIDGED LUFFA
Luffas are perfect for dishes where the sauce will be soaked up into the fruit. They absorb the flavours literally ‘like’ sponges. For further information on Luffas and their usage please visit our previous bulletin – Asian Melons by clicking HERE
Buyer’s Update: – both sponge (smooth) and ridged luffas are currently available but not in large quantities, with prices sitting a little high
A: The terms ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ when discussing squash are as straightforward as they seem, being a direct reference to the seasonality of different varieties. While advances in farming have made this seasonal distinction more or less redundant, it does provide an insight into the characteristics of the fruit. ‘Summer squash’ are picked immature while the skin is still edible (button squash, zucchinis, crookneck squash etc) whereas winter squash are harvested mature a thick, hard rind and fully matured seeds. ‘Winter squash’ originally picked up the moniker as their characteristic hard, thick rind meant they could be stored for longer periods and enjoyed in the depths of winter, unlike their summer counterparts.