How to Grow and Cook Zucchinis
Growing zucchinis and cooking with the results.
Zucchinis are one of those vegetables that usually inspires either a love or hate response from most people. Children turn up their noses and those adults that don't like them make similar faces.
If you grow them properly and harvest them when they are young and tender you will see what the Italians have known since time immemorial (or at least 500 years), that zucchinis, or as they are known in some parts of the world, courgettes (their French name), are a tasty, healthy treat.
In the beginning
Fertile soil is the key to giving your zucchini plants the best start in life, so you will need to do a bit of preparation before you go out and either buy seeds of baby plants from your local supplier. Well rotted animal manure is mine and the zucchinis favourite soil fertilizer so dig in plenty of this a few weeks before planting. Zucchinis also love the warmer weather, so make sure that Spring has well and truly sprung before you pop them in the ground.
Another little foible of theirs is that due to the largeness of their leaves they require good air circulation to grow properly, so to ensure proper ventilation it is best to mound up your soil so that the zucchini is king of all it surveys.
Finally, make sure that the zucchini is placed in a position where it receives full sunlight for the majority of the day. Once you have fertilized, built your mounds and have plotted the perfect sunlit position, you're ready to plant.
Planting your crop
And so it begins.
Zucchini is hardy enough to plant straight into the ground as a seed, however if you like to ensure a little head-start for your plants, they grow just as well in small pots before being transplanted to your carefully prepared garden bed. The transplantation should be done fairly early when the seedling only has a few small leaves.
Each mound should be seeded with either several seeds or plants, but ensure they are evenly spaced as the leaves of the plant can extend out to up to 100cm (3ft).
Starting off your Zucchini Babies
If you have a small garden like I do, or even if you only have indoor pots, there is now no excuse not to jump on the Zucchini bandwagon and grow your own.
Growing your Zucchini Plants
Your babies grow up.
So that your plants continue to grow, ensure that the soil around them remains well mulched. I like to lay down a bed of straw as well, that way the soil remains moist and it also stops any fruit from laying on the bare soil and becoming rotten.
You will also need to keep the plant well fertilized and for that I use one of the many commercially available liquid fertilizers. If you follow these steps you will find that you have quick growing plants with an abundant supply of zucchinis.
The fruits of your labours.
Everyone remembers those huge zucchinis that were given to them or their parents by an over eager neighbour and the watery tasteless meal that followed.
The key to ensuring that you have sweet delicious zucchinis in your kitchen is to nip them off the plant whilst they are young, small and succulent. When harvesting always use a sharp gardening tool, this way you will reduce any damage to the plant and ensure that it continues to produce an abundance of fruit.
You will find that the more you harvest the zucchinis the more the plant will produce, however if you are getting tired of just eating zucchinis, then it is worth noting that the flowers are also delicious and can be eaten. My favourite is to stuff them with cheese, dip them in batter and pop them in a deep fryer. Bello! (Italian for beautiful).
Great Zucchini ideas!
Need a little inspiration?
Pollinating your Zucchini - An experts view!
Simple Zucchini Slice
An Easy Zucchini Recipe
1 Cup of gated cheese
1/2 Cup of light oil (light olive oil or rice bran oil is perfect)
1 Cup of self raising flour
3 Cups of grated Zucchini
3 Rashers of chopped bacon
1 Chopped onion
Mix all the ingredients (saving a little cheese to sprinkle on top) together in a large bowl and place them in a 2cm/1inch deep baking tray that has been well greased. Bake in a moderate oven (160-170 C) for 40-60 minutes. The slice is ready when it is golden brown on top.
On a large plate with a crisp garden salad and some boiled whole potatoes dressed with virgin olive oil and crushed black pepper.
10 Great Zucchini Facts
All you need to know about your favourite vegetable (or is that a fruit? Read on!.)
1. The word zucchini derives from the Italian word zucchina(o) which means small pumpkin (or squash). Commonly used in Australia, Canada and the USA.
2. The French name courgette (which means 'vegetable' in French) is commonly used in Ireland, Great Britain and New Zealand.
3. Mexicans prefer the flower over the fruit of the zucchini plant.
4. 100 grams of zucchini contains only 15 calories.
5. Christopher Columbus originally brought zucchini seeds to the Mediterranean region.
6. The world's longest zucchini was 69.5 inches long.
7. The heaviest... (same one as No.6) weighed 65 pounds. (Bet that was watery!)
8. Zucchini is the 10th most popular vegetable in the UK.
9. Zucchinis are actually a fruit, since they are the ovary of the zucchini flower.
10.South Africans sometimes refer to the zucchini as a baby marrow!
Ingredients for Zucchini Chutney
- 1 1/2 lbs (750g) Zucchini sliced into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 125 g of finely chopped onions
- 250 g of tomatoes
- chopped and skinned (Cut a small cross in the top and dip in boiling water for easy peeling)
- 3/4 cup of sultanas
- 1 tablespoon of orange rind
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1 1/2 cups of vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/2 cup of walnuts finely chopped
- Put the chopped zucchini into a strainer and sprinkle with the salt. Leave for 2 hours. Remove the zucchini, rinse and dry.
- Put the zucchini in a pan with the remaining ingredients, except the walnuts which you leave to one side, and place over a gentle heat.
- Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has thickened. At this point stir in the walnut pieces.
- Once the walnut pieces are evenly distributed, pour the mixture into sterilised jars. (Jars are easily sterilised by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing them in hot water, leaving them upside down to dry and then finally placing them in a cool oven, 140C until they are hot. The jars are now ready to be used.)
- The chutney will keep for quite a long time in a sealed jar. Once open use within a few weeks.
Baked Chicken Zucchini... Yum!!
This recipe serves 4
4 large zucchini, each about 250g
1 cup long-grain white rice
Several Rosemary sprigs
A pinch of salt and pepper
2 medium chopped tomatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
375 g minced chicken (other meat can be used or it can be left out for vegetarians)
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup of pasta sauce
1 teaspoon chopped herbs (Be imaginative, what do you like?)
1 handful of grated Parmesan
Prep: 45 minutes | Cook: 20 minutes
1. Preheat the oven to 200C of 400F. Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the centre with a teaspoon, leaving a 1 cm/ 1/2 inch thick shell. Then chop up the pulp.
2. Place the shells in a lightly oiled baking dish, cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until tender.
3. Whilst the zucchini shells are cooking, cook the rice as per the packets instructions. Drain the rice and allow it to stand for 5 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, lightly beaten egg, chopped herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Place this mixture to one side.
4. Brown the chicken in a pan till it is lightly brown. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes until the onion has softened. Stir in the pasta sauce, zucchini pulp, rosemary and other herbs. Quickly bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Stir in the rice mixture and mix thoroughly.
5. Spoon the stuffing mixture into the waiting shells and liberally sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy on top. Serve hot and enjoy.