Stacy Cowley is CNNMoney's tech editor. She's in a complicated relationship with her CSA and explores the odd vegetables that show up in her haul in CSI: CSA. Previously, she fell in love with the weirdness of kohlrabi.
I have a zucchini the size of a baseball bat lurking on my fridge’s bottom shelf. It has a pack of cousins jammed into the veggie drawer, and my freezer is stuffed with roughly seventeen zillion pounds of squash creations.
It’s the problem every CSA subscriber or veggie gardener faces all summer long: The zucchini explosion.
These things are the rabbits of the plant world. During a long, dry July stretch when practically nothing else was coming up at my CSA’s farm, the zucchini merrily ran rampant. We got massive hauls of it each week; the leftover squash took to leaping off the vines and accosting those who wandered past. I’ve known home gardeners who become like drug pushers: “Oh, you have to take some of my zucchini home with you! No really, take some damn zucchini.”
Back in June, when the first trickle started - one little zucchini a week, no problem - I did the easy, obvious things. I tossed zucchini chunks in stir fry, or sliced it up and sauteed it as a side dish. (Try hitting it with cilantro, garlic and cream.)
By July, it was clear that my battle plan needed escalation. Zucchini soup became a biweekly occurrence: I alternate between rosemary-and-potato and saffron-and-cream versions, with occasional forays into basil, curry and other spices.
Next came daily rations of zucchini bread. The recipe I use makes one loaf; I double it every time and make muffins as well. That lets me blow through a solid pound of squash at once (the leftovers freeze well).
But for every zucchini I successfully kill off, I swear four more appear. They spawn; it’s the only explanation.
I’m not the only one with a produce problem. There’s an entire blog devoted to combating the zucchini invasion - from which I first learned about National Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbor's Porch Day - and a Pinterest page devoted to All Things Squashy.
Sure, there’s the obvious things to do with zucchini - fritters, fritattas, bread-and-bake, or toss chunks in pasta sauces and stir frys– but it’s the wackier ideas that intrigue me. Zucchini can stand in for potatoes in baked chips, tater tots, “fries” and latkes. Long ribbons tossed with parmesan and pine nuts make a tasty no-cook salad. You can sneak zucchini into cookies, fake apple pie, mock “crab” cakes, and even cheesecake.
I figure deploying five or six of those recipes at once might finally make a dent in my stash. Next year, I’m heading this problem off at the start: I’m eating nothing but zucchini blossoms for the entire month of June. I think of it as culling the herd.
I must be the only gardener in the world with this problem – I can't grow zucchini! They used to do fine, but for the last two summers, all I got was a few measly blossoms and they all fell off without making a squash. I should probably test my soil. In the meantime, there's a farm stand just down the street – I'll get them there.
Yummm. Stuffed zuchini/squash blossoms! A treat from the gods! And if attched to a small (3 inch) squash, double win! No need to deep-fat fry, as in Rome. Simply clean, insert your favorite cheese (squeeze room temp boursin from a little plastic bag – tiny hole cut at the corner OR 2 inch long thin strips of a flavored – or not- mozzarella OR ...), twist the tip, and saute. Naked. Or not. Dip in beaten egg, roll in seasoned flour or bread crumbs. Heavenly appetizer or dinner!
Last year, my CSA provided me with enough cukes for me to pickle 20 qts of them AND squash to last a lifetime. This year – Nirvana! Not nearly enough of either, not too much eggplant, and such a huge variety of everything! Loving living in the Carolinas!
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I totally relate to what you're saying. I have a few favorites that I never can use too often, but also have a blog where I track zucchini and squash recipes that have worked for me. Check it out: http://zucchiniexplosionproject.blogspot.com/
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Most people in my CSA have never even heard of zucchini - for us, the more pressing issue is that them buckwheat cakes and Injun batter makes you fat and a little fatter.
That's the first thing I think of when I hear the initials "CSA," too - good to know I'm not the only one.
I actually kinda wish I had this problem. I have not gotten very much in my CSA...probably because of complaints in the past. I would have LOVED it though. I'd take a load of zucchini over ANY bitter melon in my CSA. :)
Fantastic – and so very true – commentary and article with regard to the invasion of the zucchini nation. I had one nearly a foot and a half, maybe larger, one year. The only thing that came close in the green monster department was the (green) tomato hornworm that resembled something from Alice in Wonderland.
My neighbour makes cooked zucchini stuffed with a meatball mixture. So Good.
I'll join you in that zucchini blossom eating. I think that's the best way to have zucchini. :D
Zucchini cooks so easily. I like to throw it sliced into a pot with garlic, a little onion, and stock. When it's cooked, throw the immersion blender in. Then spice it up however you like and call it soup or throw it on pasta and call it sauce. It freezes great in this format.
Man, the ones in the picture look like they have been beatin and left in the fridge for a week. They sure don't look homegrown....more like off the shelf of the 99¢ store
I became one of those zucchini drug pushers. I started a vegetable garden this year and planted zucchini plants. I planted 4 of them. That was a mistake. 1 zucchini plant is plenty. It's just as the article describes, first you just get a trickle of squashes, then they start spawning en masse. I was pushing them to relatives and co-workers. They were appreciative at first, then they started running away at the sight of me with my paper bag of squashes.
2 Zewk plants right next to each other is perfect. When the fruits are under 7 inches, cut them off and prepare them with vinegar and spices like you would pickles. When they are larger, shred them up and make chocolate chocolate chip zucchinni cake. Freeze the cakes to hand out near thanksgiving and x-mas.
Am I crazy that I just like it steamed (use a stainless steel steamer basket), maybe with a little salt and oil upon serving, but not necessary? I realize this wouldn't make much of a dent in a huge stash, but maybe it would. Fill up half your plate with it. I think it gets incredibly sweet when steamed, and that slightly crunchy texture is great, like steamed carrots. Cutting it on the bias makes it visually attractive.
I don't understand the whole mint and feta thing with zucchini. Glad you didn't mention it. Blah. If anything, a squeeze of lemon works. Or a little parmesan. You could slice and bake it with parm on top, but who wants to use the oven in summer?
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