When you’re planning your garden–how much zucchini do you need? When I was a kid, I hated zucchini except when it was covered up in zucchini bread. Maybe because it was so bountiful and we ate so much of it at certain times of year. Maybe it was because often it ended up as a soggy mush in a stir-fry.
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate and hope for a bumper crop of all types of squash. Maybe it’s because I’ve found tastier varieties like Costata Romanesco, an heirloom type with a sturdier texture and nuttier taste or summer squash with a more neutral taste than zucchini. Also, I’ve learned there is a big difference between the gargantuan zucchinis I grew up eating and the more petite sizes that optimize taste and texture. This resource is helpful if you want to choose best squash varieties for where you live.
You should have good luck with most varieties of summer squash. Try a variety and see what you prefer. You’ll want to start your seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before transplanting them outside. Plant a couple of seeds in a 4-inch pot and snip the weaker plant. Squash are heat lovers so planting them in a plastic mulch or in a low or high tunnel will boost their productivity. But don’t forget to hand-pollinate them if they are enclosed in plastic. Space the plants 2 to 3 feet apart in your garden. I am growing yellow summer squashes, Tempest and Zephyr, as well as Costata Romanesco zucchini. This post can help you calculate how much zucchini you should plant.
You can find the following three recipes on the Smitten Kitchen Blog, my go-to source for recipes. I can’t get enough of “squash pizza.” A close cousin is “zucchini grilled cheese,” which might make sense if you want an easier, quicker lunch option. Much like zucchini bread, these recipes both do a good job of almost making the zucchini disappear. Another fantastic, but slightly more involved ending to your zucchini story is the “burst tomato galette with corn and zucchini.”
I’ve sworn off home deep frying. First, it stinks up the house and makes a big mess. Second, it’s not healthy. And third, my technique leaves something to be desired as usually whatever I deep fry doesn’t taste very good. In any case, there are two things that are commonly deep-fried — squash blossoms and zucchini fritters. But I tried a baked version of squash blossoms, and they were delectable. I will definitely be making this recipe more this summer.
UAF Extension’s publication on zucchini provides tips on growing, preserving and cooking with zucchini. Fair warning—some of the recipes are dated (particularly the casseroles) and might be more interesting in terms of a historical perspective on how people ate rather than something you or I would think about making today. But, in the dozens of recipes, you’re bound to find a few that sound good to you and that perhaps you can tweak to accommodate a more modern palette. You can find even more growing tips from Minnesota Extension.
Previously published in the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer August 2, 2020.