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

Image: freepik

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 

Image: wikipedia

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




Image: freepik

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


Image: SG&S

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.

Buyer’s Update: 

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




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.


Q: How do Asian Melons relate to sweeter melon varieties? 

If there’s one food trend that is getting a lot of airplay this year, it’s ‘authenticity’. At the heart of the trend is the consumer's preference for traditional cooking methods, flavour combinations and produce- all of which result in an authentic dining experience not easily replicated at home.

The produce markets show clear evidence of this trend, with Asian and exotic produce lines in particular taking up more of the market floor and increasing in abundance.  In the spirit of authenticity, we have dedicated our bulletin this week to Asian Melons, which are abundant and fantastic eating at this time of year. Asian Melons are affordable and at their peak in summer, so now is the ideal time to use their unique texture and flavour to full effect.


CHI QUA: (Hairy Melon, Fuzzy gourd)- staple of the Chinese diet


Appearance: 20-25 cm long cylindrical fruit

Skin: green with fine hairs covering the rind

Look for: HAIR! Hair is a sign of freshness

Storage/Shelf life: Store in a cool place (not fridge) where they will stay fresh for several weeks

Flavour: Mild, not unlike zucchini

Usage: Peel- slice, dice, shred or stuff. Add to soups, steam, stir-fry or bake


DONG QUA: (Winter Melon)- closely related to Chi Qua


Appearance: large and heavy, round to oblong (akin to a watermelon if not bigger)

Skin: green with white blotches, caused by a layer of wax (easily removed)

Storage/Shelf life: whole melons with the wax coat intact will keep for over a month refrigerated, once cut best use them in under a week

Flavour: mild to bland – texture like a zucchini

Usage: holds shape well when cooked- used in may Asian soups, stews and curries. Also, stuffed and baked, pickled and candied


LONG MELON: (opo squash) - closely related to the Hairy Melon


Appearance: thin, large, cylindrical – like a cucumber

Skin: light green with a waxy coating (young melons have fuzz but this is lost with maturity)

Storage/Shelf life: whole melons with the wax coat intact will keep for a week or so, once cut best use them in a few days

Flavour: Similar to zucchini or squash when young however as matures gets more bitter

Usage: Peel- slice, dice, shred or stuff. Add to soups, steam, stir-fry or bake


SZE QUA: (Smooth luffa, Sponge luffa, Sponge Gourd)


Appearance: large, green, cylindrical fruit

Skin: smooth (slightly ribbed) with pale stripes

Storage/Shelf life: Store in a cool place (not fridge) where it will keep for 2-3 weeks

Flavour: mild flavour and slightly spongy texture

Usage: young smooth luffas are used much like a zucchini or squash. Usage varies from soups, stews and curries to drying and frying. Very small fruits can also be eaten raw or pickled


SIN QUA: (Angled luffa, Silk Gourd, Chinese Okra)

Image: Department of Primary Industries- NSW

Appearance: long, slender fruit, between 15-40cm in length

Skin: 10 deep ridges running from end to end

Storage/Shelf life: while they can be stored for a time, they lose water easily so it is best to use them promptly

Look for: bright, glossy, firm fruit

Flavour: mild flavour and slightly spongy texture. The younger fruits are less fibrous and taste slightly sweeter

Usage: once hard ridges have been removed (potato peeler works a treat) they can be steamed, stir-fried, grated or added to soups or curries


FU QUA: (Bitter Melon, Balsam Pear, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Cucumber)- considered a medicinal fruit due to its high vitamin and mineral content

Image: Department of Primary Industries- NSW

Appearance: oblong shape

Skin: warty skin with ridges down the length of the fruit. The bumps are characteristic to variety, Chinese/Japanese cuisine tends to favour the smoother light green varieties, while the Vietnamese and Indians prefer the darker, narrower fruit with very prominent ridges and warts

Storage/Shelf life: fruit continues to ripen after harvest and should be used promptly as the more mature the fruit the more bitter it will be. Bitter Melon also emits ethylene and should not be stored with bananas, tomatoes, mango, papaya and guava

Look for: fruit that is uniform of colour (green) and 15-25cm long. As they mature they turn yellow- at this stage they can be nigh on inedible

Flavour: All parts of the bitter melon are extremely ‘bitter’

Usage: While not usually peeled, rough parts of the skin can be scraped off. The pith of the green fruit should be removed as the seeds can have a purgative effect.  The bitterness can be eased by salting the flesh and rinsing (like with eggplant). Fu Qua can be boiled, stuffed and baked, steamed, stir-fried or ever used in salads when sliced thinly. Their flavour suits strong flavoured ingredients such as black bean paste, garlic or chilli.


A:  They may taste very different but they are all in fact one big happy family. Each of the Asian Melons listed above belong the Cucurbitaceae family which also includes rockmelons, watermelons, muskmelons (honeydew), pumpkin, squash and cucumbers. Despite appearances, the Hairy Melon, Winter Melon and Long Melon are even more closely related, for while they may look very different they are varieties of the same species.