There Is No Such Thing as Too Much Zucchini
My growing space is small, so when people see that I have two hills of summer squash, both zucchini, they’re sure I must be a beginner gardener who doesn’t have a clue about how much those hills are going to produce. Actually, being able to pick two or three eight-inch-long fruit every few days is the very reason that I grow them. You can use them in so many ways. In fact, I find it almost impossible to have too much zuchinni.
Zucchini Is So Easy to Grow
A vegetable that takes off fast, grows like crazy, doesn’t seem to have any pests and keeps on producing until the cold weather? What’s not to love?
Well, some people get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of food this squash offers. They forget to check the hill for a few days and suddenly there is a massive dirigible of a zucchini under the leaves. Or two. Or three.
The Most Bountiful Vegetable
There’s an old gardeners’ joke –
Q: “How can you tell if a person has no friends?”
A: “It’s August and he’s buying zucchini at the grocery store.”
The seed package says “Heavy yields” and that’s the truth. Although a hill of zucchini plants takes up quite a bit of space, it gives so much fruit for such a long time during the summer, that I would never want to be without one. The uses for zucchini are limitless – grilled, sauted with onions, grated in muffins and cakes, or pureed in soup, to mention a few.
The Harvest Begins
When the zucchinis first start coming, it’s pretty simple to keep up. The weather’s great. We’re in the garden a lot. We make sure to pick them before they get past six inches long, moving the leaves out of the way and checking beneath them so we don’t miss any.
At this stage, all we ever do with them is wash them, pat dry, split them lengthwise and gently toss the halves in a bag or bowl with some organic olive oil. We sprinkle the halves with dried basil, oregano and fresh ground pepper and grill them until they are just barely cooked – only a few minutes. They are incredibly delicious and look spectacular too.
More Uses for Zucchini
The zucchinis keep coming. Pretty soon, it’s time to broaden the summer squash repertoire.
- On a rainy day, I dice onions and zucchini and fry them in some oil until they start to brown. Season and serve. It tastes superb.
- I also start making zucchini bread and muffins. Breakfast and snacks are never hard to come up with when you have these in the house. And they freeze extremely well.
- Next comes soup. I make a pot of homemade soup every weekend, and during the season, zucchini will always be in it. Cooked in chicken broth and pureed, it makes a nice creamy base for any soup. Add some herbs and no one will even guess it’s there.
- That’s one of the wonderful things about zucchini. It’s willing to take on the nature of other ingredients. I’ve made relish from it. I use it grated in quiche and other baked egg dishes. I peel it and slice it half and half with apples for desserts such as “fruit” crisps or “apple” sauce. Add lots of cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg – if you don’t tell them, they won’t know.
- The next thing I do is try to share my blessings. Given the jokes and the old stories – like having to lock your car door all summer long so you didn’t come back to it and find a bag of zucchini on the passenger seat – I am pretty sensitive about only giving them to people who actually want some.
- The harvest still continues and this is when I start to freeze my supply for winter. I peel them, dice them and partially cook them in the microwave in three or four-cup batches. I bag the exact amount I need for certain recipes, label the portions and freeze them in flat squares. A lot of bags fit in a small freezer space. I also blanch one-inch chunks and bag them in larger amounts for winter soup.
So many, many riches!
Slowing Down the Harvest
Throughout this frenzy of vegetable gardening and harvesting, we try to keep the fruits picked while they are still small. Eight to ten inches is my absolute maximum. Of course, there’s always one that gets away, but if you stay on top of the harvest you can keep it under control.
There may come a time when it’s getting a tiny bit tedious keeping up. Well, remember the barbecue recipe right at the beginning? This is when you start to pick the tiny squashes with their big yellow blossoms still attached. Clean them, check inside the blossom for any bugs that may have strayed there, then brush them with oil and grill them. Delicious. And keep in mind that this is gourmet eating. I saw these at a farm market in the height of the season for $5.99 a pound. That was ten times the price of regular zucchinis. As you keep the tiny ones picked, there will be no more big ones to worry about. Problem solved.