It is easy to confuse a zucchini from a squash partly because many people think they’re the same thing. The two are very similar when it comes to looks and flavor, even in texture. All these make it difficult to tell one from the other, mostly since you can also cook them the same way. So where does the difference lie, if there is one?
Zucchinis belong to the squash species in the gourd family, which means that all zucchinis are squash. However, the squash species also cover summer and winter squash. The zucchini belongs to the summer squash category and the yellow squash, crookneck, among others.
Summer squash tends to be harder to tell apart since most of them have tender exteriors and most of the gourd is edible apart from the stem. Winter squash, which include butternuts and acorn, is easier to tell apart from zucchinis because the former are known for their tough, inedible skins and hard seeds.
Squash vs. Zucchini: How to Tell Them Apart
Perhaps the member of the yellow squash family that looks like the zucchini the most is the yellow squash which could be where the confusion comes from. But don’t worry, if you really want to know how to tell your squash apart, you can do so by simple observation. The easiest way to tell zucchini from yellow squash, which is its closest counterpart, is by:
Most people refer to zucchini as the green summer squash to differentiate from the yellow summer squash, although you can also find a variety of zucchini that comes in a rich golden yellow color. The color is the easiest way to tell them apart because the green zucchini stays green for most of its life, while the summer squash is yellow. The zucchini also has soft white flesh while other types of summer squash can have different colors of flesh from white to cream to deep yellow that borders on yellow-orange when ripe.
Zucchini is often long and straight, while the yellow summer squash has a fat bottom that tapers towards the stem. This is also the feature that can help you tell the yellow zucchini from a yellow summer squash since the yellow zucchini does not have the tapered end present in squash. Other types of squash in the gourd family tend to be round and plump with noticeable ridges and fleshier skin that may be too tough to eat. Different summer squash varieties may have noticeable bumps and a waxy feel on the skin, while the zucchini is mostly smooth and shiny.
Yellow squash tends to have more seeds at any given stage of its life. The zucchini has a higher flesh-to-seed ratio. The fleshier the zucchini is, the fewer seeds you can see.
The squash originated in the Americas, while the zucchini variety came from Italy and was brought to the US by zucchini-loving Italian immigrants.
There really should be no fuss as to what you are looking at because you can’t go wrong with either zucchini or yellow squash flavor-wise. However, if you want your salads or cooked dishes to have variety in terms of color and texture, adding equal helpings of both yellow squash and zucchini in vibrant green can give your dishes that extra visual pop.