On Saturday at the farmers’ market, I got so excited about a display of baby squash at North Tabor Farm that I knocked two pints to the ground while trying to take a photo. Don’t worry, I bought them (and we ate them), and I did provide some entertainment for farmer Rebecca Miller who just laughed.

You may think I love baby vegetables because they are cute. But you’d only be half, maybe a third right. There are all kinds of reasons why little vegetables can make better eating and cooking than their bigger kin.

And pretty much all of those reasons can be found in a pint of baby zucchini and summer squash — though I did also come home from the market with another of my favorite little vegetables, baby bok choy. And of course there was the baby fennel last week and the baby carrots, too. Soon it will be time for Fairy Tale eggplants and those tiny currant tomatoes. The first baby red potatoes and baby beets are being dug. And then come baby cauliflowers and the petite, pointy heads of romesco. Finally, baby pumpkins and honeynut squash no bigger than your hand. Along the way, any number of baby lettuces, from Little Gem to Lollo Rosso, hold court at the market. But they’re a whole different game.

And I forgot baby turnips!

Susie Middleton

But about those little squash. At Rebecca’s stand, the mix included mini yellow and pale green pattypans, young Zephyr squash (yellow blocked with a green tip), young crookneck yellow squash, and mini striped green and yellow zucchinis. Most of these little edibles have grown from pollinated flowers to the diminutive size they’re picked at in only a matter of days. They truly are babies. (And they wind up in the kitchens of State Road Restaurant, the Port Hunter, the Red Cat and others practically the same day they are picked; talk about fresh.)

Because they’re so young, the flesh is extra dense and not only lacks the excess water that a more mature squash holds, but also boasts a more assertive flavor. You could almost call it tart, or even slightly bitter. (But in a good way, I promise.) A mature squash will mellow into a milder, more nutty-tasting vegetable. And a very mature squash will mellow straight into blandness. I find the flavor of young vegetables is almost always superior to older ones.

The texture — that dense flesh — is what really sells me on the little squash, because you can stir-fry, roast or grill them without them becoming slushy. They really hold their shape. (As a bonus, the immature summer squash lack the big seeds that haunt the older squash.)

The first trick is to cut the long ones into thick (3/4-inch) slices and the squat ones into quarters or wedges. Don’t slice everything thinly or the slices will just pile on top of each other and steam. Nice bite-size chunks with plenty of skin left on will tumble around a stir-fry pan and get nicely browned without overcooking. (It’s amazing, with no peeling, minimal trimming, and only a little chopping, how speedy it is to prep these things for cooking — another bonus.)

The second trick is to use high heat. Searing the outsides of the pieces traps moisture. If you want to use squash in a curry or a soup or anything with a sauce, brown it with high heat first, take it out, and only add it back into the dish at the end of cooking.

If the flavor and texture (and yes, the good looks) of baby vegetables doesn’t seduce you, I have one more carrot (sorry) to wave in front of you. I have heard (remember I am not a nutritionist and have been accused of adding too much cheese and cream to certain leafy green vegetables at times) that smaller vegetables have a higher concentration of nutrients. More bang for the buck. (And remember, most baby vegetables do not need peeling, so the nutrient-dense skin stays on.) So in the case of zucchini and summer squash, that means more folic acid, more vitamin A and C, more magnesium, more calcium. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

What I know for sure? You’ll love this easy stir-fry recipe (below). If you’re not feeling like the coconut milk/lime/basil thing will work for you, finish the dish with parmesan and a dash of cream (there she goes) or just garlic, lemon zest and parsley.