The zucchini and summer squash you planted way back on Memorial Day may be ready for harvest. The earliest varieties ripen 45 days after being planted, which is just about now.

Be sure to watch the plants closely. The jokes about baseball-bat-size zucchini have resulted from gardeners who miss the vegetables growing underneath the plant’s large leaves until the vegetables are so large they are good only for zucchini bread and other complicated recipes that people don’t really want to undertake in the heat of summer.

The ideal size for picking summer squash – for ideal tastiness and tenderness – is when they are six to eight inches long and an inch to, at most, two inches in diameter. (If you let them grow huge, my editor tells me they become what the British call “marrow,” and are often stuffed and baked.)

I like walking through our vegetable garden, especially after dinner when I may see a nice sunset and the temperatures are cooler. Look at all your plants on such strolls, but especially lift the leaves of zucchini and summer squash and peer below. If you see a squash that is developing but not yet ready to pick, make a mental note (or if your memory is bad, plant a small stake or flag) so you will know to check it on successive nights until it is ready for picking. It won’t take long.

I like summer squashes grilled, steamed, raw and in salads; you can stuff and eat the blossoms, too, like the Italians do. And give yourself a virtual slap on the wrist for any you let get too big to eat.

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