Summer squash is a classification for the several different varieties of squash. The term is usually reserved for types of squash that are harvested while the rind of the plant is still tender and edible. This is opposed to winter squash varieties that normally have a harder rind that must be removed before preparation.
One of the most common and popular of all summer squash options is the yellow crookneck squash. This variety has a bright yellow rind that is soft and edible. The body of this type of squash is similar to a gourd, complete with the fuller body and smaller neck that is common with many types of gourds. The crookneck squash can be cooked or sliced and diced for use in salads or as a bit of color on a raw vegetable platter.
Scallop squash and zucchini are two other examples of summer squash. Both these varieties tend to lend themselves more toward use in casseroles or as an ingredient in a stir-fried dish. Light seasoning often helps to bring out the flavor of these two varieties of squash, much in the way that a little salt brings out the flavor of butternut squash.
There are a number of squash recipes that are very easy to prepare. Many of the recipes call for nothing more than slicing or dicing the whole squash and adding one or two other vegetables to the mix and adding some type of filler to make a simple casserole. Summer squash tends to work very well with onions, as the two foods tend to enhance the flavor of the other.
In addition to casseroles, squash can also be added to marinated vegetables to add a bit of color. For example, slices of yellow squash can be added to sliced cucumbers, cooked chickpeas, tomato wedges and purple onions and marinated in a simple Italian dressing. Served cold, this simple dish takes very little time to make and works very well as a side dish on a hot summer day.
Along with the tender rind, summer squash also differs from winter squash in terms of shelf life. Summer squash usually will not retain its freshness for very long. This means the squash must be prepared and consumed in a relatively short period of time after harvesting. The hardier winter squashes tend to keep for longer periods, making them ideal for the colder months of the year.