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What To Do With Excess Zucchini Squash
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The Voluminous Vegetable
Although many gardens have their richest harvest in the month of August, Zucchini is the best known for it's abundance of fruit. Almost overnight, beneath those oversized leaves, gardeners discover brand new, arm length green zucchinis. The problem is so bad that in some parts of the country, you are warned to lock your doors and keep the car windows rolled up...otherwise you may come back to a back (and front) seat full of succulent summer squash.
Of course, once you've read this hub that may not be a problem. After all, there are a thousand and one things to do with summer squash. Okay, maybe not a thousand and one. But you can use up as much squash as you harvest. It just takes a little creativity. And a cooperative family. And some cooking time.
It's not as bad as it sounds.
Fruit or Veggie? The best of both worlds
Although it's found in the vegetable section, Zucchini and other squashes are technically a fruit. Botanically speaking, a fruit is the part of the plant that develops from the flower's ovaries. In layman's terms, if the plant flowers, and the part you eat is the part that grows just behind the flower...then it's a fruit. That includes all squash, tomatoes, eggplants and even some legumes.
So why is Zucchini thought of as a vegetable? It's green skin and traditional use in main dishes with savory seasonings make it a culinary vegetable, even if that isn't scientifically accurate.
Squash Your Carb Craving
That's right. Low Carb diets have led to the delightful discovery that properly prepared zucchini can make an excellent substitute for pasta and rice in dishes.
- Zucchini spaghetti: (a spelling nightmare) is simple enough to make. Just grate your zuke lengthwise on the coarsest setting you have. You'll get long strips of squash that you then steam or parboil until you are happy with the consistency. Serve up with your favorite pasta sauce and voila...a healthy, high fiber, nutritious pasta. With the carbs you save, you don't have to feel guilty about indulging in garlic bread.
- Zucchini Lasagne: Got some overgrown squashes? Never fear. Slice them up lengthwise, and layer them with your favorite lasagne toppings. Cottage cheese (or ricotta), marinara sauce, meat, and cheese are traditional. Your version will have added fiber and minerals. Especially if you add extra diced veggies to the layers.
- Pizza Party! No, not as a topping (that might be considered a desperate measure) Use your overgrown zucchini to make a lovely crust; and then top it with all your favorite things. Bonus...The crust is not only low carb and low calorie, but gluten free too (just in case there's a pizza loving celiac in your life)
- Baked Po-Zukes: Half your zucchini, then stuff with your favorite baked potato fillings. It won't taste like a baked potato, but half the fun is the fillings anyway. And while a traditional spud costs 130 calories, your average medium sized zucchini is only 30 calories. And it's a good source of vitamins A and C. It may not have quite as much potassium, but it doesn't have the extra sodium and is lower in carbs, too. But still satisfying.
Did You Know?
Although zucchini probably wasn't cultivated until the early 19th century, there are at least 13 different varieties of heirloom zucchini. All in all, there are more than 30 kinds of summer squash available through heirloom or seed saver companies.
The Zucchini plant may seem anything but humble, as it sprawls across your garden, sending runners over your paving stones and vining over anything it can get it's little tendrils on, but the squash itself is unpretentious. Often found hiding between leaf stalks or growing to gargantuan proportions beneath it's shady leaf cover, the zucchini squash is at it's finest when it's out of the limelight. Take a cue from this modest morsel and hide it. The possibilities are endless, and the pros have written entire books on the subject of subterfuge.
Just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Zucchini bread (It tastes sweet enough that they may not notice the flecks of green flesh dotting the dough. And if they do, try peeling the zuke first. Serve with butter and honey if you really want decadence.)
- Muffins Same as bread, but sometimes more child friendly. Stick a Zucchini muffin in their lunchbox with a bit of cream cheese frosting and they'll call it a cupcake.
- Sauce: You can grate zucchini finely and add a handful to just about any sauce or creamy soup you can think of. The squash cooks up quickly and can lose it's telltale chewy consistency, leaving just nutrients and a nuance of flavor.
- Juice: The juicing craze is far from over, stuff a zuke down that juice tube and cover it's bland flavor up with pears, apples, grapes or whatever your kids prefer to be drinking. It won't even turn the juice green like kale does.
- Mac and Cheese and other casseroles: Zucchini happens to be especially subtle in baked pasta dishes. If you grate it up finely and don't use too much, it'll even disappear into store bought mac and cheese. Although, I recommend grating a little extra cheese and baking it for just a few minutes in a baking pan to finish it off and pass off any lingering strands as a product of your gourmet touch.
Did You Know?
The zucchini is a summer squash, and closely related to yellow crookneck and pattypan squashes. It's also related, more distantly, to melons and cucumber.
Although squash was cultivated here by the Native Americans, the first mention of zucchini itself in the United States occurred in the early 1920's; when it was probably brought to California by Italian immigrants.
When you're growing prize winning squashes, sometimes it's nice to let it take center stage. You can make Zucchini soup, and serve it in a bread-bowl or a hollowed out squash for good measure.
You can stuff it with anything that you have a hankering for. Meatloaf filling, rice and cheese, tomatoes and meatballs with a few breadcrumbs...the possibilities are endless. And the presentation just can't be beat. You can stuff it with leftovers, top it with the last of your shredded cheese and bake until done, your guests will think you slaved away.
Zucchini fries: Any vegetable worth it's salt is better roasted and zucchini is no exception. Chop it in chunks, drizzle with oil, and roast in a hot oven until it's crispy. You can dip it in breadcrumbs and parmesan for a special treat.
Fry it up with a beer batter.
Fritters and Flapjacks: Grated zucchini makes a great healthy version of latkes. Just grate up the zucchini, squeeze out as much moisture as you can, and replace some or all of the grated potato in your favorite latke recipe. Or try this one.
Sweet and Simple sautee: Worst comes to worse, you can harvest all those teeny tiny starting squashes (some with the flowers still on the tip); rinse them very well; and throw them in a pan that's been pregreased. Cook until you like the consistency and serve with a touch of sesame oil and soy sauce. Again, the presentation can't be beat.
Did You Know?
Zucchini is up to 95% water; making it a great choice for juicing or eating raw to stay hydrated during the hottest days of summer.
Serve it Raw
No time to cook? No problem. Zucchini is one of those wonderful foods that can be enjoyed hot or cold, cooked or uncooked. Slice or sliver it, and use it on top of salads or alongside your carrot and celery sticks served with ranch dressing.
Share The Surplus!
Although zucchini is easy to grow and has a bad rap for being overabundant in everybody's yard, don't just assume your neighbors won't want to share your bounty. There is a reason farmers still grow and sell the famous squash...and that's because the people not growing it still want to enjoy it.
Ask your friends and neighbors if they have a garden, and if not, offer to share some of your excess. They will get farm fresh produce, and you can breathe easy knowing that what you can't use will end up on someone's plate.
If no one you know can put your garden excess to good use, or your plants have been particularly productive this year, consider donating your abundance with the local food bank, or offer a few squashes up on freecycle. If your squash vines have tangled up into an unruly mess, some organizations will even send a few volunteers out to take care of the harvest for you. And you can feel good about helping keep hunger at bay, this season at least.
What's your favorite Zucchini dish?
Freeze for the Future!
I know that your garden is overflowing NOW, but think ahead. In a few months, it will be dreary, cold and desolate. Your only source of produce will be the wilted, days old stuff trucked into your local grocery store, handled by who knows how many people and coated in who knows what sorts of pesticides.
Instead of throwing your hands in the air and relinquishing your superfluous squashes to the compost heap (or worse, the trash bin), you can freeze it. There are some caveats about frozen squash. Namely, as a vegetable that contains a LOT of water, it will lose consistency in the freezer. Oxidation may also take it's toll on the visual appeal of frozen zucchini. But, you can still save some for later.
The first thing you need to know is that grated zucchini freezes best. And you'll get the absolutely best results if you freeze it prepared into something. Casseroles, enchilada mix, meatloaf, sauce and soup all freeze beautifully. Zucchini bread and muffins are also stellar choices. Make up double and triple batches, and carefully wrap the extras up in parchment paper and foil. Label clearly. My kids eat them frozen, but your might want to warm them up first and add a touch of butter.
If you aren't sure exactly what you'll want to use your zucchini for later, you can parboil it. I understand that some people parboil baby zukes and chunks of mature squash, just for 3 minutes. Personally, I don't care for the consistency, but you can try it. Drop them in rapidly boiling water, and remove after 3 minutes, cool quickly and freeze. Or, you can grate it up and steam it for a minute and a half, then freeze in measured containers. Zucchini mush can be put into ice cube molds for quick use in later dishes.
Grow Your Own Heirloom Squash!
- Annie's Heirloom Seeds
Annie's sells old-fashioned heirloom vegetable seeds of all kinds, as well as organic gardening supplies, books, and gifts for gardeners. Shop our online heirloom seed catalog or request a catalog and shop from home.
- Squash - Johnny's Selected Seeds
Unique and tradtional looking squashes
- Summer Squash | Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co
Includes a variety of unusual and unique varieties of zucchini and summer squash; some nearly extinct in North America.
- Renee's Garden Seeds
Variety of heirloom seeds including 7 varieties of zucchini with descriptions.