2015-08-06 / From The Garden

Summer Squash: Sun Worshippers

By Cynthia Gibson

Scallop squash, also known as pattypan squash. Scallop squash, also known as pattypan squash. On these inescapably hot days of summer, there are a few vegetables that bask–and thrive–in the glory of the sun. Most plants love sun and heat but it is the heat that is the key to ripening. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and summer squash are all sun worshippers! The squash, while basking, spreads its leaves and funny tendrils, and takes over much of the space in the garden. The squash loves room and heat.

I like to call summer squash the "pretty squash." It is a bright canary yellow, so you cannot miss it under its massive leaves (unlike zucchini, whose green can act as camouflage). Before you know it, zucchini can grow to the size of small baseball bats, and will not be tasty. There are actually six varieties of summer squash: cocozelle, crookneck, straightneck, scallop, vegetable marrow and zucchini.

A summer squash, whether crookneck or straightneck, is a delicate vegetable. Its taste is subtle, yet sweet and a bit nutty. It comes from a famous family of Cucurbita pepo. Its origins are in the Americas, yet it has been a fixture in Europe since the Renaissance, thanks to the early European explorers who returned home with the precious seeds. The origin of the name is fascinating. Algonquin Indians called it "askoot asquash," meaning eaten green. It is best picked and eaten when it is light yellow and shiny. The darker the yellow squash becomes, the thicker the skin and less flavorful it will be.

Cocozelle is known for its sweet flavor and tenderness. Cocozelle is known for its sweet flavor and tenderness. The most hybridized of all summer squashes "repatriated" in Europe is the zucchini. Italian growers, in fact, developed varieties– striped, long, round, and spotted–that we still do not have in the U.S. What would ratatouille be without summer squash? It is where this summer dish gets its sweetness. What is great about this vegetable dish is that even though you will create a mélange of vegetables, each particular taste is recognizable and distinctive.

Serves 4-6

1 large onion, peeled and cut
into half inch pieces
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 large red, juicy, garden
tomatoes, cut into
half-inch pieces
3 large sprigs of
fresh thyme
1/4 cup freshly diced
1 large green
pepper, seeded
and cut into halfinch pieces
2 small summer squash, cut
into rounds then halved
1 medium sized zucchini, cut
into rounds
1 medium sized eggplant,
peeled and cubed into halfinch pieces
7 fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Water (bottled still water)
A pinch of crushed red pepper

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Coat the bottom of a large, heavy, frying pan with olive oil. First, cook the onions until they are fragrant and close to transparent over medium heat. Add the garlic and continue cooking for approximately three minutes.

Add the tomatoes, 1/2 cup of water, thyme, and salt to taste. Cook the tomatoes until they have broken down. This should take about 15 minutes. Next, add the green pepper and continue cooking for five minutes. Add the eggplant next as it will absorb a lot of the oil and liquid from the tomatoes. Continue cooking and stirring until the eggplant is soft. Add freshly ground pepper to taste. Coarsely chop the fresh basil and add it to the ratatouille. Stir for about two minutes only. Before serving, sprinkle the top with finely chopped fresh garden parsley. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold. The choice is yours. Voila! Ratatouille is a lovely gift from your garden.

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