You might not guess by its looks, but patty pan, or scalloped, squash is a tender summer squash, like zucchini or crookneck yellow. The scalloped flying saucer shape makes them a bit of a novelty and a little difficult to slice, but they grow, cook, and eat much like any other summer squash. If you harvest them young, there's no peeling or cutting required, just cook them by any method you like and eat the whole thing.
Kids are sometimes more tempted to try them, because of their fun shape. You can begin to eat them when they're only a couple of inches in diameter, making them a perfect choice for an individual serving.
While the vines and leaves look much like any other squash plant, the fruits of patty pan squash look like flattened balls with scalloped edges. They can be almost white, green, yellow or some combination of those colors.
- Leaves: Lobed and somewhat scratchy, which is typical of squash plants. It's advisable to wear gloves when harvesting if your hands are sensitive.
- Flowers: Yellow and edible, the patty pan flowers can be just as delicious as the squash itself. They're often left on smaller fruits and eaten.
Cucurbita pepo is the botanical name—most summer squashes belong in this species. Common names include patty pan squash and scallop squash.
Summer squash grows best and set the most fruit in full sun, but they can handle partial shade.
Patty pan, like most of the vegetables we grow, is an annual plant, so hardiness zones do not apply in this instance.
Mature Plant Size
Most patty pan has a semi-bush growth habit, so the vines are not as long as you might expect from a squash plant. Patty pan vines will grow about two to three feet in height, with a spread of about three to five feet.
Days to Harvest
Check the days to maturity for the variety you are growing, but most are ready to harvest in 45 to 70 days.
The fruits can start to be picked when they are about two inches in diameter and remain tender up to about a 4-inch diameter. Each squash weighs less than 1 pound.
Plant seeds around one inch deep. Squash is often planted in hills, or clusters, with two to three seeds per hill, spaced two to three feet apart. Each hill can be thinned to one or two plants, once the seedlings are two to three inches tall.
If planting in rows, space plants around 10 inches apart, with three feet between rows. Give your plants plenty of room to roam. Although patty pan vines are not as long as some squash vines, they can still spread up to six feet.
A second planting in mid-summer will keep your garden producing into fall. Early plants can become exhausted due to heavy fruit set.
Squash plants have both male and female blossoms and they both need to be present for pollination to occur. Having multiple plants with multiple blossoms will increase the chance of pollination.
Patty pan squash does best in rich, well-drained soil and plenty of sun. Patty pan will grow in most good soils but prefers a soil pH that is slightly acidic, from about 6.1 to 6.5.
Summer squash basically grows itself. Wait until the soil has warmed and then direct seed in the garden. You could start seed indoors, four to six weeks before your transplant date, but direct-seeded plants will quickly catch up.
Care and Maintenance
Keep the vines well watered, especially when in bloom and producing. If they experience too much drought, they will drop their flowers and fruits.
Mulching helps keep the shallow root system cool and moist. Straw is great to use as a mulch in vegetable gardens, to keep the fruits dry and clean, but any mulch will do.
Side dress with compost or fertilize every 4 weeks, while producing squash.
The greatest maintenance will be checking your summer squash daily, as summer squash can reach harvest size within four days of flowering.
Preparing Patty Pan Squash
The odd shape of patty pan squash can confound cooks. You can avoid the whole idea of how to slice patty pan squash by cooking them whole. Whole patty pans can be steamed over boiling water until tender, about four to six minutes, depending on size.
You can also roast patty pans, although they cook more evenly if you slice them in half first. Place the pieces on a baking sheet and roast on the top rack for about 10 to 15 minutes at 420 F, until tender. You can coat with olive oil or butter and season to taste beforehand if you so choose.
If you want to be brave and slice your patty pans, feel free to slice them any way you like. You can slice through the diameter, dice them into chunks or simply scoop out the cooked flesh. There’s no right or wrong way to slice this vegetable.
Patty pan squash also makes great little edible serving bowls. Scoop out the centers, either before or after cooking, and fill with a stuffing of your choice.
If you think you'd like to add some patty pan plants to your garden, you can start by checking out the following varieties:
- ‘Patty pan/scallop’: An unnamed, usually pale green and dependable choice.
- ‘Flying saucer’: Green centers with a ring of yellow. Dense fruits with a nutty flavor.
- ‘Pattison panache’: A pale green French heirloom. Best picked young.
- ‘Sunburst’: A former All America Selection. Bright yellow and very tender, especially when picked early.
Pests and Problems
Unfortunately, patty pan squash sometimes succumbs to unfortunate nuisances like the following:
- Cucumber beetles feed on seedlings and mature leaves, blossoms, and fruits. They can also spread bacterial wilt and mosaic virus. They will overwinter nearby and can produce several generations per season. Rotate crops!
- Squash bugs feed on leaves. Although they prefer winter squash, an infestation can easily kill young vines.
- Squash vine borer larvae bore into the base of the stem and feed there until mature, cutting off the vine circulation.
- Powdery mildew can affect the leaves of the plants during humid summers. It won't kill the plants, but it will weaken them and diminish fruiting. You can use either the baking soda spray or milk remedy to get rid of it.