It is that time of year when the summer squashes are producing madly. I posted previously about what one can do with them when they get out of hand. However, this proposes to be a slightly more serious post.
We have found that picking them every day and not allowing them to get larger than about 4 inches ameliorates the problem considerably. You can also do what Jim refers to as a “surgical strike” against the zucchini by going out there and harvesting squash blossoms for risotto or pasta. This will cut down on production considerably — for a while.
While strolling through the blogsphere recently it came to my attention that there are many people out there who are struggling to figure out What To Do with all that squash that is suddenly making its appearance in their gardens. I’m not sure what the point is of growing a vegetable that you feel must be “put into something” in order to make it palatable. These people are looking for recipes that encase the brilliant vegetable in carbohydrates. That’s great if you’re trying to gain weight, but the vast majority of Americans are not looking to do that.
I am not above eating the occasional carrot cake or zucchini fritter, but I prefer my vegetables more or less unadulterated. Zucchini shows up on my table most often either steamed with tarragon and dressed with a little olive oil, or tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and grilled.
The latter method of preparing the squash is also the way I prepare it for storage. Believe me, I have studied on the problem of excess zucchini for several years. It actually makes quite wonderful pickles, which is one way of putting it by. Once, many years ago, we grated it and added it to diced tomatoes along with garlic, onions, carrots, and green peppers. We canned the resultant beautiful liquid for soup base. That worked famously, except for the fact that when we added all those other veggies to the tomatoes it changed the pH sufficiently that in order to make it safe for storage it had to be canned under pressure, which takes a long time and tends to heat up the house inordinately.
We have also gone the “Grate it and Freeze it” route at The Havens. The trouble with this is that when you thaw that squash out it is a soggy disgusting mass that is good for nothing except putting in soup, or the aforementioned carbohydrate laden venues such as cake, bread, etc. It will make a decent frittata if the liquid is squeezed out of it, but when I am squeezing out all that juice I can’t help but wonder how much of all that wonderful calcium and potassium is going down the drain along with it.
Last night, as we were enjoying our grilled zucchini, I suddenly wondered exactly what nutritional value the dish was presenting to me. So I looked it up. Zucchini is the dieter’s friend, it turns out. If your serving is 1 Cup, or 130 grams of squash, you are ingesting 25 calories. Along with that you get 1.4 g protein, 5.5 g carbohydrates, and 2.5 g of dietary fiber. Looking down the list, you get 530 IU of vitamin A, small amounts of the whole B vitamin spectrum, and 29 mg of Vitamin C. Calcium shows up with 36 mg. Trace amounts of copper, iron, selenium and zinc are there in addition to the 21 mg of magnesium, 38 mg phosphorus, and a whopping 263 mg of potassium. While the 1 gram of protein is a very small amount, I notice in the amino acid listing that it is a complete protein. I noticed that there was no vitamin E in this, but when I checked the olive oil listing I discovered that it was supplying that lack, along with the lipids necessary in a healthy diet. So a serving of zucchini (or other summer squash) dressed with olive oil is nature’s perfect food.
This is how we love our zucchini best:
Slice squash in rounds or steaks. It doesn’t matter which as long as they are all fairly evenly thick. 1/4 inch thick is a good size. Toss squash in a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Grill over a medium hot fire using a steel grill plate so the squash doesn’t fall through the grill. Turn several times. Serve hot or cold.
Grilled zucchini is great all by itself, hot or cold. If there are leftovers, it can be reheated in the oven very nicely. Slice the rounds or steaks and put into salads, or toss them with olive oil, pesto, and garlic in pasta. Add the pieces to alfredo sauce. It is wonderful in soup as well.
If you are getting a heck of a lot of squash and want to save some for use later in the winter, prepare using above method. When the squash is cool, arrange on cookie sheets or jelly roll pans in a single layer and freeze. When squash is frozen, remove from pans and store in freezer in ziplock freezer bag. When you want to use it, the individual slices will not be coalesced into a big lump and you can remove as much or as little from the bag as you desire. Since the squash is already cooked and stabilized, it does not deteriorate or turn into a mushy mess during freezer time.
I admit. If I did not have my freezers available to me, I would be completely lost as to what to do with all the bounty that our garden serves up to us each year. Believe me, this is a subject that crosses my mind on a regular basis: “What to do if the power grid goes down forever.” However, that mad and apocalyptic subject is one best left to a future post, if ever.