Swelling of the squash

Just the ripe size.

Just the ripe size.

They are the humblest fruit of the vine. And with a name like squash, what more would you expect? They grow easily and cheaply under the sun, lying ignobly in the dirt as they swell helplessly with water, often growing faster than many home gardeners can find recipes in which to cook them. But hurry, they’ll assume grotesquely large proportions if given the chance.

But Bill Crepps harvests his yellow-green hybrid Zephyr squash when they are just 6-inches long and still in their tender infancy. “Squash will grow and grow,” acknowledges Crepps, who appears at the Saturday Davis Farmers Market. Large squash become tough and woody, but Crepps’ young Zephyrs are so soft and silky; they can be eaten raw, he says. He recommends grating them over salads. Watch his market stand for sun-dried squash chips, too.

Squash like it warm. Consisting of several species in the Cucurbita genus, many originated in the hot climes of Central and South America, where they played one part in the “three sisters” farming trilogy; squash vines climbed the stalks of corn plants while beans replenished the soil for all with nitrogen.

Today, life in modern America would go on without squash, many of which quit growing each year by Thanksgiving. But they bring color and diversity to the Davis market stall of Ed George, who sells almost 10 varieties each Saturday. Sunburst, zucchini, crookneck, 8-ball, Round Denise and Magda are a few in his repertoire. George pulls zucchini blossoms, too—as many as six per day per vine. These go for six for $1 and are popular with restaurant chefs, who “do some fancy-shmancy stuff with them,” George notes. They stuff them with goat cheese or crab and fish fillings, then grill or fry the pretty little packets. Indeed, their delicate blossoms are arguably the most graceful culinary expression of the family.

Their fruits are just squash.