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Fresh Picks: Summer Squash

Each week, we’ll tell you the freshest thing to taste from Colorado farmers and chefs. 

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Just about now, home gardeners will start lamenting about overabundant summer squash. Whether they planted zucchini, pattypan, or yellow crookneck, the plants are going, well, bonkers. If you harvest in the morning, it seems like you’ll find more bounty by day’s end. Trust us, this is a good problem.

Summer Squash | Family: Cucurbitaceae

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From the Farmer: Cultivators harvest early and often so that the fruits don’t get too big. “To me, it is one of the most amazing plants in the vegetable kingdom because it puts on so much biomass,” says Mark Guttridge of Ollin Farms. “It has an uncanny ability to turn water into a carbon based-form in a matter of hours, which is cool. But as a farmer who has almost a linear mile of squash every year, if you miss a day, you’re in trouble. We have a squash patch, but I always joke that it has us.”

Good for You: While summer squash are full of vitamin C, they are more well known for what they lack: calories. These low-fat fruits are especially filling, which is why using them in place of pasta noodles is uber trendy. “Spiralize” zucchini into spaghetti-like strands or cut thin on a mandoline to swap in for lasagna noodles for an indulgent meal sans grain.

At the Market: Don’t fret if the market only has yellow summer squash when you wanted green zucchini; the varieties are almost interchangeable in recipes. Yellow types tend to have more seeds and a slightly thicker rind. All have tender skin—that’s why you are eating them now—so expect pocks and gouges in the fruit (this won’t affect the flavor).

Around Town: There was a time when Paul Reilly of Uptown’s Beast & Bottle used to dread squash season. Not anymore. “Now I look forward to it,” Reilly says. “I see it more as a flavor sponge than anything else.” The key, he says, is ridding the squash of as much water as possible; then the fruit has a sweet, grassy flavor. At the restaurant, Reilly salts the squash first to draw out excess liquid, which allows it to take on other flavors. Taste Reilly’s handiwork with the romesco squash carpaccio, a small plate currently on Beast & Bottle’s menu. Reilly lines a plate with paper-thin squash medallions and then tops it with lemon radiatori (pasta shaped like mini radiators), lemon tuna confit, and extra virgin olive oil.

In Your Kitchen: I see it as a challenge to find ways to use every last zucchini from my garden each year. There are recipes for sweet options (apple zucchini muffins and brownies) or savory meals (zucchini koftas or summer squash and pesto pappardelle). Growing up, weekend meals in the summer started with a bowl of fried zucchini slices dipped in ranch dressing as we waited for the entrée to cook on the grill. Now, in my home, I opt for baked chips, which are just as tasty. And when I inevitably find that big-as-my-forearm fruit in the garden, I’m actually delighted. I slice it in half, carve out the center to form a boat, and fill with my favorite stuffed pepper stuffing. I cook half that night and freeze the second to eat on a wintery day.

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