Back in the 1980’s a vegetable hit the local supermarkets and was super trendy for a while but now has largely vanished from the shelves, maybe because it doesn’t pack as well as baby courgettes or people found the yellow colour a little strange but the patty pan lives on in allotments and farmers markets.
Patty pan come in a range of colours, yellow, whites, pale green and duck egg blue but one of the best is the yellow Sunburst F1.
I try not to buy F1 seeds too much as the seeds within them do not breed true to the parent so you cannot save seed, however I make an exception for a few vegetables and this is one.
Sunburst produce a steady stream of the little UFO summer squash through the season. When small you can use like a courgette, when larger like a marrow. If harvesting small you will need to go over the bush every couple of days to remove them when an inch or less across, each time getting 1-3 patty pan per bush at every picking. As you pick small they just keep going and going. If you leave the fruits to get to marrow size, about 3-4 inches across then you will get many less fruits as the bush concentrates on maturing those larger patty pan for seed.
Spot the developing flowers. There are three patty pan on this bush at various sizes and roughly 10 flowers all waiting to bloom.
In the kitchen
Depending on the age that you harvest treat it as a courgette or marrow. When picked young they only need a couple of minutes steaming or sliced in half in a stir fry. When they reach the marrow stage then slice the top off, hollow out the middle, removing any seeds and pith and fill with a cooked rice or mince meat mixture and bake in the oven for individual stuffed marrows or leave unstuffed, slice in half, remove seeds and pith and roast in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Yield and plant health
Sunburst holds the RHS award of garden merit at the time of writing which is awarded to the best plants in its class. It is incredibly versatile. It produces masses of flowers which can be either harvested at the flower stage for use in courgette flower recipes or wait a little longer and harvest at an inch across for baby courgettes. Leave a little longer where they will get to be about 3-4 inches across and you will have a marrow, leave longer than that until the skin is fully hardened at you will have a ufo shaped marrow that will store for quite some time.
Sow in late April to May undercover. I like to sow in root trainers which are long thin pots which split open to release the plant for planting. They are ideal for big seeds or plants that don’t like having their roots disturbed. Fill the root trainer with compost. Push one to two seeds per root trainer about 1.5 cm deep. Water and top up with compost if needed. Keep moist but not damp. If the squash gets too big for the root trainer before you can plant in the ground you will need to plant in to a larger pot. You will probably have to pot on at least once before planting out. The addition of heat in the form of a propagator or warm room when sowing will increase success.
Plant out after all risk of frost has passed, with each plant at least 1 meter apart. Squash are sprawling plants that like to grow in full sun, in a very fertile but well drained soil, enriched with copious amounts of well rotted manure. Water well at the base of the plant during warmer weather. A stick placed at the base of the plant on planting out can be a useful way of finding the base again once your squash plant has turned in to a monster. Just as it is hard to over water your squash, it is almost impossible to overfeed it. These are hungry plants and will relish weekly feeding