This post is part 1 in a 3 part series about using and preserving popular vegetables from the garden during this harvest season. Parts 2 & 3 will give you ideas for preserving and recipes for tomatoes and sweet corn.
Although we still have 2 weeks left of summer it certainly feels like autumn and the harvest is well on its way. As a matter of fact you may have a pile of zucchini on your counter as I do and need to do something with it all. During August you can practically get zucchini for free because anyone who grows it is begging neighbors to take it!
Zucchini is just one of many summer squash but seems to be the most popular. One common mistake people make is letting zucchini grow too large. You have to check it every day as harvest draws close, and pick when the zucchini is 6-10 inches long. Bigger is not always better. If a zucchini gets too large it gets a bit tough and spongy in the middle and the seeds start getting hard. I made the mistake yesterday of trying to shred zucs that were too large in my kitchen-aid and ended up with yuck.
Preserve: If you can not preserve right away, do not wash.
- Zucchini can be sliced 1/2 inch thick and tray-frozen, unblanched, to be breaded or flour-coated and fried. Do not defrost squash before frying.
- Zucchini can be grated and frozen for baked goods. When defrosting, squeeze the moisture out before measuring and adding to recipe.
- Zucchini can be dried as chips: 1. Wash & cut into 1/2 inch slices; do not peel. 2. Dry in a dehydrator at 120 degrees for 6-8 hrs turning once, until crisp. Or dry in oven at 120 degrees for 6 to 8 hrs. 3. Cool and package in airtight containers.
- Zucchini can be frozen for stir-frying: 1. Wash. Drain. Pat dry. 2. Trim ends. Slice no thicker than 1/4 inch thick. 3. Pack in gallon-size freezer bags. Press out air. Seal. Freeze.
Great Zucchini Recipe's:
Everyone loves zucchini bread. I found a fantastic and somewhat unique lemon zucchini bread recipe. I use 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all-purpose and add an extra Tablespoon or so of lemon juice to make it extra lemony. Make a double or triple loaf and freeze for later but whatever you do don't make the same mistake I made years ago and make cucumber bread...it's really not that good!
There is more to zucchini than bread though. Below is a simple and yummy recipe from my favorite cookbook called "Cooking With Heirlooms: Seasonal Recipes with Heritage Variety Vegetables and Fruits".
Zucchini and Tomato au Gratin
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.
Heat 1 T canola oil in a large skillet. Add 1/2 medium onion, diced and saute until tender. Stir in 4 medium zucchini cut into 1/4 inch slices and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Peel and chop 2 heirloom tomatoes and add to zucchini. Add salt and pepper to taste and 4 large basil leaves (chopped). Cook 5 minutes longer.
Spoon the mixture into prepared baking dish. Add 1/4 C (or more) shredded cheddar cheese. Bake 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.