Endless Summer. Squash, That Is

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Sean Timberlake
When it comes to squash, summer never seems to end.
​They may be called summer squash, but they are having a strong showing well into autumn. Farmers' markets are still bursting with them in a myriad of shapes and colors. Yellow and green zucchini prevail, but crooknecks, pattypans, and others add to the kaleidoscope of squashy goodness.

Anyone who's ever grown squash knows that when they come in, they come in fast and hard. Zukes in particular seem to have an almost preternatural ability to grow; skipping so much as a single day of harvesting can result in oversize, woody gourds. Consequently, they tend to be some of the more inexpensive vegetables at the market.

Happy Boy Farms, which appears at a large number of markets from San Francisco all the way down to Monterey, was selling mix-and-match varieties for just $1.50/pound last weekend, but as usual, it pays to buy in bulk. Contact the farm's wholesale division at 831-476-3276 to inquire about larger quantities and pricing. You'll be able to pick up your order from a nearby market.

Another tactic for saving money is to have recipes on hand for oversize squash. These are commonly not considered suitable for market, so you can often get them on the cheap. My new favorite recipe for big'uns is zucchine sott'olio, a Southern Italian recipe from Rosetta Costantino's fabulous new book, My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy's Undiscovered South (W. W. Norton, $35). I've got a batch going right now, marinating in the fridge. The fact that you use mature squash, combined with Costantino's method of preservation, gives the zucchini an amazingly satisfying texture.

There's more to zucchini than bread. Squash pickle well, though they tend to favor sweet pickles to sour. Rachel at Dog Island Farms opts for a classic bread-and-butter pickle; Dorothy takes a similar approach, but in spear form. Kaela eschews the sweet stuff and pickles her pattypans with a classic garlic dill brine.

The next logical step is relish, and this is where the flexibility of the ingredient shines. You've got your classic sweet relish, given a yellow twist, but don't be afraid to take it in different directions, like Leena's zingy BBQ relish. Of course, some like it hot ― Audra and her goats for instance. Alanna straddles the line with a relish that is both on the sweet side and carries a peppery kick. Finally, the good folks at Well Preserved cooked up a sweet-tart zucchini marmalade with citrus, sugar ... and a whopping 18-incher!

Sean Timberlake is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts.

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