Zucchini: The Unsung Hero of the Veggie Garden

A friend once quipped, “You know you have no friends if you don’t find zucchini on your doorstep in the summer !”DSCN9450

Yes, it’s true, zucchinis ( sometimes known as a “courgette”, or “summer squash”) can be prolific in the garden, with one plant producing more zucchinis than many people know what to do with.  And who ever plants only ONE seed???  Hence, the abundance of this undervalued vegetable makes it the butt of many jokes.  Of course, adding to the joke material is that a perfect-sized squash, if not picked in time, can grown at an incredible rate, to be a huge whopper.  Baseball bat, anyone?

According to Wikipedia, “in a culinary context, the zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savoury dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.”   Move over, tomatoes, you’ve got company!

Growing up at home, we used zucchini in two recipes.  One was a delicious ratatouille that was inspired by my mother’s early years in France.  I make a very similar one, using mushrooms instead of eggplant, and adding peppers if I have them.  The second option for zucchini was zucchini bread.  This is where all the whoppers got used up, of course.

Green Tiger zucchini

Green Tiger zucchini

Today, there are so many more options, and I am vigilant when walking through the squash patch (yes, I have more than one plant!), to make sure I harvest them while they are still small, and the skin is thin (eliminating peeling).  Aside from the traditional dark green zucchini, I have a mottled pale green variety, striped ones (Green Tiger) and have grown bright yellow ones in the past.  Also in the patch are beautiful baseball sized Ronde de Nice (an heirloom from France), which can be sliced, grilled and used as toppers on burgers, or hollowed out and stuffed with either a ground-beef or bread-stuffing style filling.  The most exotic squash are the different patty pan varieties….solid green, bright yellow and white varieties this year.  These are best picked small and used in either stir fry or oven-roasted.   My good friend, Rebecca Landman, of Landman Gardens and Bakery even pickles these!   Oh, and all of these varieties are highly suitable for shredding or slicing into a raw salad!

I’ll share with you three of my most recent favourite zucchini recipes.

The first is from my friend, Meadow Linn, of California.  She introduced her Asian Zucchini Pancakes on her Savor the Day Blog two summers ago, and they are a huge hit at our house.  You will want to make sure you freeze all your extra zucchini in pre-measured packages, so that you can make these in the winter, too!  While you’re at it, check out the fabulous book she co-authored with her mother, Denise Linn, called “The Mystic Cookbook: The Secret Alchemy of Food“.

Next up is a yummy Spinach and Zucchini Soup recipe I found online last week.  It was an unusually cool week, and I thought a soup would be in order for lunch.  I used Swiss Chard instead of the spinach that was called for, and some parsley rather than the cilantro.  Fresh ground pepper on top and it was delish!

And finally, a superbly simple recipe that I made for a family celebration last night.  These baked zucchini were quick and easy to prepare ahead of time.  I cut small DSCN9472(6-7″) zucchinis in half (making sure to use similarly-sized zucchinis, to ensure that they would all bake in the same amount of time), and shaved a bit off the bottom, so they would lay flat.  After brushing them with olive oil, I topped them with lots of chopped garlic, some Roma style tomatoes, a mix of grated Romano and herbed mozzarella cheese (from the Elora market), and some chopped basil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  I just popped them into the oven about 35 minutes before supper at 375 degrees F, and baked until the the zucchinis were cooked, but not mushy.  Everyone at the dinner table agreed the recipe was a keeper!

So there you have it, lots of delicious ways to enjoy this bountiful summer delight!  I’d love to hear about your favourite ways to have them, too!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by kristenburkholder on August 14, 2013 at 11:21 am

    wow! I love these recipes! And I think….that last one…the picture is so beautiful. I may have to try this tonight. Thank you so much Julie…


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