In my zone 6b garden, zucchini seeds can be sown directly from mid-May right on up through September 1 making for an excellent fall crop. Louise Riotte, the author of Carrots Love Tomatoes, reported that her late planted zucchini fared much better as she was able to pretty much avoid squash bugs and the squash vine borer.
Not only is this garden favorite easy to grow, it is versatile in the kitchen, and, frozen, canned, or dehydrated will store through the winter providing your table with food from your garden.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while growing your zucchini:
- Zucchini is a member of the cucurbit family which includes cucumbers as well. Why is this important? This is helpful to remember if you practice crop rotation. The same family members often attract the same pests and diseases and share the same companion plants. (For more information on vegetable families and crop rotation here is a post I wrote last week for Gnowfglins. )
- Zucchini plants produce two sets of flowers. The male flowers are attached to the plant by a single stem, while the female flowers appear above a tiny miniature squash.The male flowers appear first in hopes that by the time the female flowers begin to bloom they can be adequately pollinated. Once they have bloomed, they will drop. This is normal.
- If you notice that the fruit is not quite maturing or has a shriveled end closest to the blossom this means that it has not been pollinated. This could be for a number of reasons including heat, or a lack of bees. You can try to pollinate the fruit yourself by breaking off a male blossom, exposing the stamen, and gently rubbing it against the stamen of a female blossom. This is best done early in the morning when you are more apt to catch the blossoms open.
- The biggest zucchini pest in our area is the squash vine borer. She will enter the stem at the base of the plant, and work her way up depriving the plant of moisture and nutrients. One day you will have a gorgeous plant and feel so proud, the next day it will wilt and you’ll want to cry. Once you notice the plant at this stage there is little that can be done to revive it. You can however tie knee high panty hose around the base of the plant preventing her from getting in there in the first place, or you can practice succession planting, putting in new seeds every two weeks in order to stay one step ahead of her. (Here is another post on natural pest control.)
And here are a few ways we enjoy using it in the kitchen:
- Grate, and saute with a small amount of onion. Use as an omelet filling or as a filling for meatloaf. Pat the meat out thin, spread with the filling, and roll up jellyroll fashion sealing the ends. Add your favorite meatloaf glaze and bake as you would normally.
- Make zucchini chicken, one of our favorites.
- Slice into thin rounds and dehydrate: zucchini chips!
- Serve zucchini carpaccio.
- Slice, saute, add spaghetti sauce or a can of diced tomatoes and heat through. Cover with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and serve with French bread.
- Grate, add grated carrot, saute, and use in place of ground beef for a vegetable lasagna.
Make Chocolate Zucchini Cakes!
- 2 1/4 cups of flour
- 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 t salt
- 1 c organic cane sugar
- 3/4 c rapadura
- 1 c coconut oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 t vanilla bean paste (or vanilla)
- 1/2 c buttermilk or sour milk
- 2 c grated unpeeled zucchini
- 6 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
Preaheat oven to 325 and prepare muffin tins. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Beat sugar and coconut oil in a large bowl until well blended. Beat eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla; mix in flour mixture alternately with the milk in three additions each. Add grated zucchini. Using an ice cream scoop fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Sprinkle with a few chocolate chips. Bake for about 30 min or until toothpick inserted, comes out clean. Makes about 18 little cakes.
Do you have zucchini growing in your garden? What are some of your tips for growing great zucchini? What are your favorite ways to use it in the kitchen.
The recipe for the cakes was adapted from one in this favorite cookbook:
We have enjoyed using the coconut oil purchased from here:
Find this post and others like it linked to: The Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Tuesdays with a TwistMountain Woman RendezvousFoodie Friday, From the Farm Blog Hop,Homemade Mondays, The Homestead Barn Hop