In the Garden:
There's no shortage of delicious summer squash in my garden. The Middle Eastern and pattypans are still producing well.
The Summer of Squash
With the cool air starting to filter its way down from Canada (did I hear frost in some forecasts?), flowers and vegetables are slowing their growth. However, one crop that never seems to quit until the first frost has struck is summer squash. We all know about zucchini's penchant for proliferation, but I've found some summer squash varieties that produce as abundantly, stay smaller longer, and taste better (at least to my taste buds).
My Middle East Connection
My most recent summer squash discovery hails from the Middle East. The Middle Eastern summer squash or Cousa squash is light green and shaped like a bowling pin. What I love about this squash is that it never seems to get large - certainly not like the caveman clubs my zucchinis would turn into. It has such a creamy texture that even when steamed they taste great without even adding condiments other than a pinch of salt. And this is from a man who thinks olive oil and butter are side dishes!
These little "flying saucer" squash come in green and yellow varieties. I like the yellow variety 'Sunburst' for many of the same reasons I like the Middle Eastern summer squash; they are prolific, stay small, and taste great. Plus, they have to be the cutest little vegetables I ever saw, and they fly! (Just kidding.)
Squash Flowers Sauteed
When I tire of summer squash stir fries and casseroles, I cut the production quickly and dramatically by harvesting the flowers before they set fruit. Squash flowers are delicious, especially when sauteed with olive oil and garlic and dipped with fresh Italian bread. It's called "dipping and sopping" in my house, where hands and oil are flying and everyone's smiling. If you still want more summer squash fruit, you can have your flowers and eat them too! Just pick the male flowers (the ones with no little baby squash behind them) and leave some to pollinate the female flowers. The flowers usually open by midmorning, so harvest them and have an Italian lunch of sauteed squash flowers, sliced fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and bread. I'm hungry just thinking about this dish!
Summer squash are fast growers when sowed in early summer in well-drained, compost-amended soil while the soil is warm. They have few pest problems, except this time of year when powdery mildew fungus will form on the leaves. This fungus appears as a whitish cast on the leaves and eventually turns them yellow. If it occurs in September, I usually don't worry about it, since frost will come soon enough. If it occurs earlier in the summer, try spraying neem oil on the leaves to slow its progress.
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