In Season: Tromboncino squash

Tender summer squash is one of the highlights of the July market basket. One week there's none in the markets, and the next week the stalls are filled with bright yellow crookneck squash, dark green zucchini and pale green pattypan squash.

A variety that seems to be doing well for Georgia growers is zephyr squash, a straight-neck variety that has pale green stripes at the blossom end and is bright yellow at the stem end.

Farmer Hudson Rouse is experimenting with an Italian heirloom variety, the tromboncino squash. The fruit can grow to be 3 feet long, although Rouse likes to harvest it in its immature stage with the blossom still attached.

The squash is distinctive for its long curving neck that swells into a ball at the blossom end. The bigger the squash, the harder its shell and the longer it will keep. Picked at the immature stage, it can be used like any other summer squash. Left to harden up and turn tan, it becomes closer to a butternut squash.

Rouse likes the squash because of its provenance, but also because it seems less susceptible to vine borers, a pest that makes it tough for Georgia farmers to grow a continuous squash crop.

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Tender summer squash need no peeling and can be eaten raw, lightly steamed, grilled, sauteed or cooked into that Southern favorite, squash casserole.

Freshly harvested summer squash will keep up to 10 days lightly wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. Because of their high water content, they'll quickly dry out if left unwrapped or if left to sit on your kitchen counter.

At local farmers markets

On July 18, the Dunwoody Farmers Market will move to Spruill Gallery, 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road.

Cooking demos:

6 p.m. Thursday, July 12. Chef Seth Freedman of Forage and Flame. East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.farmeav.com

9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 14. Chef Marc Summers of Parsley's Catering, working with potatoes. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.morningsidemarket.com

10 a.m. Saturday, July 14. Chef Thomas McKeown of Grand Hyatt Atlanta. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com

11:30 a.m. Sunday, July 15. Chef Shaun Doty. Grant Park Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.grantparkmarket.org

For sale

Vegetables, fruits and nuts: arugula, Asian greens, blackberries, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collards, corn, cucumbers, dandelion, eggplant, endive, escarole, fava beans, fennel, garlic, green beans, green onions, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, Malabar spinach, mushrooms, okra, onions, patty pan squash, pea shoots, peaches, pears, pecans, peppers, plums, potatoes, sorrel, spinach, squash blossoms, tomatoes, turnips, yellow squash, zucchini

From local reports

Squash Casserole

Hands on: 15 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Serves: 8

Seth Freedman of Forage and Flame demonstrated this recipe at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market. Its unique contribution to the world of squash casserole recipes is the way Freedman combines the custard ingredients, simplifying the recipe while still creating a dish that will hold together when baked. Any variety of tender summer squash will work fine in this recipe.

2 pounds summer squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 onion, cut in half then thinly sliced

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar, divided

1 cup cracker crumbs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large microwave-proof container, combine squash and onion. Add 1/4-inch water to bottom of container, cover vegetables with parchment or waxed paper and cook on high heat for 8 minutes or just until squash is tender. Carefully remove container from microwave and allow vegetables to cool.

While squash is steaming, whisk together butter, flour, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in milk, then add eggs. Add 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese.

Drain vegetables. Press down on vegetables to release as much water as possible. Add vegetables to egg mixture. Stir to combine and pour into prepared baking dish. Toss remaining cheese and cracker crumbs together and sprinkle over dish. Cover dish with foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until casserole is lightly browned, about 10 more minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Per serving: 307 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 15 grams protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 18 grams fat (11 grams saturated), 104 milligrams cholesterol, 576 milligrams sodium

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