Most vegetable gardeners become skilled at making the most out of their harvest. I’ve enjoyed learning various preserving methods that stretch the availability of foods with a short shelf life, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, and stone fruits. Some vegetables produce in such abundance that multiple recipes are required to handle the amount needing to be preserved. Zucchini and other summer squashes come to mind.
Since I use them frequently in soups, sauces, and other dishes, I decided to plant a lot of summer squash this year, including classic varieties such as crookneck, early yellow, and straight green, and two roundies that I love to cook with, the 8 ball and the 1 ball. I also planted several “flying saucer” patty pans, this year all yellow, which are smaller than the white ones I’ve previously grown, simply because the white tend to become a 10 inch inedible triceratops, practically overnight.
What I didn’t realize was that several plants had reseeded from prior years’ gardens, and the zucchini explosion resulting from all these plants may be about to rival our tomato crop in terms of sheer volume. And I think we have 30 or so tomato plants! To complicate matters, I’d had the brilliant idea to toss last year’s Halloween pumpkin remains out in the yard as natural compost, not realizing that our local pumpkin patch/Christmas tree farm also grows heirloom varieties. ( This is a good thing- go Roba’s Tree Farm! ) The local fauna proceeded to consume what was left of the pumpkins, as well as any squash we’d neglected to harvest, and deposit the seeds in “fertilized” packages all over the yard, giving us this year about a dozen unidentified squash plants in various non-squash bed locations:
Two of these plants I feel can reasonably be assumed to be pumpkins, and one is definitely a butternut – the rest are dropping 8 ball zucchini every other day. This is in addition to the yellow and green ones coming out of the regular garden. These little round squash, as I mentioned, are easy to cook with, chopped, grilled, thinly sliced, whatever. It’s the “traditional” zucch that are turning into Louisville Sluggers while I am daily distracted by the billiard balls, both intended and not. Every counter in the kitchen is piled with squash, and more come in very day.
What to do? Sauteed zucchini, stuffed zucchini, zucchini ribbons as refrigerator pickles, zucchini chili, zucchini in soups and jambalaya, raw zucchini “noodles”, and for those squashes that get too overgrown to be tender when used in these ways, it can be grated and added to dishes as a sneaky way to add vegetables without anyone noticing. One of the best recipes for this I’ve found is Barbara Kingsolver’s “Disappearing Zucchini Orzo” from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a most-beloved book:
We had a version of this for dinner last night, and there were NO leftovers. I do, however, have a lot of grated zucchini still, and so my next effort will be the ever-popular zucchini bread, which can be frozen if there is extra, but always seems to disappear as fast as I can make it. The grated zucch itself can easily be frozen in zipper bags, allowing for holiday zucchini bread.
Now I do, naturally, have a zucchini-inspired crafty project to share, a knitted hat in a dark teal, shaped kind of like a zucchini. After using a long-tail cast-on with a US size 6 circular needle, I purled the first two rounds, then worked a single cable pattern of 6 stitches over a narrow purled backround. The rest of the band I worked in plain stockinette stitch for about 3 inches, followed by two more rounds of purl stitch. Using yarnovers to create eyelet increases on a diagonal, I knitted for about another 8 inches before beginning a slip/slip/knit decrease pattern, which put the decreases on the opposite diagonal than the eyelet pattern. After 3 inches of decreases on every other round, I broke the yarn, threaded it onto a yarn needle, and put the yarn through all remaining stitches. After tying off and weaving in the ends, I have a roll-brim, bonnet-shaped slouchy hat with an interesting stitch pattern and a cute cable detail on the band:
The yarn I used for this was a stash yarn leftover, I think from one of crocheting daughter’s early projects, although it was just wound into a ball and had no label, the behavior of the yarn makes me think it is Simply Soft by Caron. I think this pattern would be cute in a bouncy organic cotton, or even a self-striping sock yarn. Although I’d love to try it out in another yarn, I’ve still got zucchini bread to bake, and a lot more squash to deal with before I embark on this year’s pickling adventure…so I guess it will have to wait.