Photo by Melody

The Infamous Zucchini

By Darius Van d'Rhys (dariusJune 24, 2009

Close all the windows and lock all the doors… the zucchini are coming! The much-maligned zucchini is about to multiply in gardens everywhere and soon the same old zucchini jokes will start making the rounds again. We laugh every year but it’s the frenetic laugh of complicity, knowing we too may soon be bearing lumpy bags of extra zucchini.

Gardening picture

One well-traveled zucchini joke is about the woman who grew the world’s largest zucchini. She wanted to take it to a friend to show it off. The zucchini was so huge, it stuck out the car window and she couldn’t lock the car. Stopping at the grocer’s for a few things on the way, she returned to her car to find something awful happened while she was in the store… someone had left her the world’s second largest zucchini too!

The Best Zucchini Recipe:
1 bushel zucchini
1 raincoat
1 pair of sunglasses
A moderately fast car
Go to a busy parking lot. Drive around until you find an unlocked car. Put the zucchini in the back seat and drive away FAST before you are discovered!

Alternatively, keep a bag of them by the front door for unwanted visitors, or use a giant zucchini in the toilet tank as a water saver…

What is so funny about zucchini that germinates all those jokes? It is not the only vegetable in our gardens that grows abundantly. Tomatoes and cucumbers come to mind, and there are many others. Do you ever hear jokes about too many radishes, or too many beets?

I think it’s the very nature of zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) and how it grows almost overnight. There’s an old saying that you cannot ever plant the right amount of zucchini. If you plant just one, it will die. If you plant two, both will live and you will have too many zucchini. After making your 100th recipe for fresh zucchini, you will understand.

 Round zucchini, like 8 ballImage of zucchini plant full grown
 Image of golden zucchini
 Round zucchini
 Zucchini plant  Golden zucchini

For any gardener, zucchini ranks highly as an easy-to-grow vegetable, at least until squash vine borers find it. Once the female flowers appear, zucchini can grow almost overnight (2+ days from flowering) to the ideal tender and tasty size of 6 to 8 inches. If you are not extremely careful about checking under ALL the leaves daily, you will almost certainly miss one, which will become a giant, tough zucchini in just 2 to 3 days. Some folks will use those huge zucchini for zucchini bread, but how much zucchini bread can you eat? (…and how many can you find to accept those gigantic zucchini?)

 Zucchini bread ImageSlicing zucchini
 Zucchini bread
 Zucchini marmalade Sliced zucchini

Zucchini are very healthy; the calorie count is very low and they contain vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and are high in fiber. Zucchini is about 95% water. Try to dehydrate zucchini… nothing much but the rind will remain. For that reason, extra zucchini are not generally suitable for freezing unless you like mush. It is a vegetable best used fresh although there are other ways to put them up, like zucchini pickles and zucchini marmalade. (The zucchini marmalade pictured above is some I made from an internet recipe with canned crushed pineapple and apricot jello powder.)

Personally, I seldom bake during the hot summer months, and I love zucchini bread. I grate fresh zucchini in 2-cup batches to freeze, the perfect amount for my zucchini bread recipe. Then on a dreary winter day, I easily thaw a prepared package and make zucchini bread. I bake mine in mini-loaves to give some away. They make a nice winter gift.

zucchini flowers
  Baby zucchini and zucchini flowers  Inside a zucchini flower
 Zucchini flowers
 Baby zucchini and zucchini flowers Inside a zucchini flower

One way to cope with an abundance of zucchini is to harvest some of the flowers, thus cutting down on the actual quantity of fruit. (Yes, zucchini are technically a fruit, as are tomatoes.) The zucchini blossoms are edible raw or cooked, and an expensive delicacy to purchase. Search the Internet for lots of recipes for squash blossoms. Here’s an example.

The bottom line is: don’t be afraid to grow zucchini, regardless of all the jokes! The Internet must have thousands of recipes for zucchini… try some new ones this year, including some for the flowers.

Crunchy Zucchini Sticks
3 medium zucchini
1/2 cup of wheat germ
1/2 cup of finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 cup butter, melted

1. Cut each zucchini lengthwise into fourths, then lengthwise again into halves to form sticks. Cut each stick crosswise into halves (each zucchini makes 16 sticks) or if they are large enough, cut them again lengthwise for long, thin strips.
2. Mix wheat germ, almonds, cheese and salt in a plastic bag.
3. Roll about 8 zucchini sticks at a time in the melted butter until evenly coated. Lift with fork and place in plastic bag. Shake sticks in wheat germ mixture.
4. Lay on ungreased cookie sheet. Cook in 350ºF oven until crisp and tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Photo Credits:
Zucchini on a cutting board: Public Domain
Zucchini flowers: Public Domain
Small green zucchini: Public Domain
Inside a zucchini flower: Public Domain
Round zucchini: Public Domain
Thumbnail zucchini photo is by Farmerdill, from Plantfiles
Golden zucchini photo is by Evert, from Plantfiles
Zucchini Marmalade, Zucchini plant and zucchini bread photos are by the author

  About Darius Van d'Rhys  
Darius Van d'RhysI have a 'growing my own food' obsession that comes from my overlapping interests in cooking, nutrition and gardening. I am also a "teacher", a writer, a builder… and a craftsperson and... and… and many other things, LOL. In fact, I guess I am a generalist, and a Seeker. I live in the southern Appalachian Mountains on a hillside with a creek in front, and drive a 15 year old truck I lovingly call “My Farmer’s Ferrari.” Editor's note: Darius passed away on March 19, 2014. Her readers will miss her greatly and we are thankful for her legacy of wonderful articles.

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