Some vegetables are dangerous. Zucchini falls into this category.
First, you have to dedicate a lot of space to grow it. Two of my six raised beds are dedicated to squash. Second, they come at you like the Blitz in WW2. One day you have pretty orange flowers, and the next day BOOM. Also they are very good at hiding against a dark background and under leaves. So if you let them go a couple more days, you have squash the size of a small truck. It’s nothing to go out each day and pick 5-10 of these things. And I DON’T EVEN LIKE SQUASH. But my wife does. I will eat them if you cut them paper thin, then fry them in beer batter. Actually, if you take cardboard, beer batter it and deep fry it, it would probably taste the same.
In the past, the way I dealt with the onslaught was to dump them on my work colleagues. These are dashing urbanites for the most part who think that the only way to get vegetables is at the local Whole Foods. I would show up each day with two or three grocery bags full of squash and usually could give it away before I got on the elevator. After a week or two, I couldn’t pay people to take them.
So the obvious question is “Why the hell did you plant 12 plants?” This is fair. As I said, my wife likes them. To the tune of using 1 or 2 in a week’s time. And she likes the green AND the yellow ones. So I buy a flat of six plants for each. THEY NEVER DIE. They all get huge and produce like their lives depended on it. And this is the result.
So what can you with this bumper crop if you can’t give it away? Well you can eat it as it comes, but good luck with that. Turns out you can freeze it. Or you can pickle it. Or you can can it (cue the can-can!). Each has it’s pluses and minuses.
When you cook zucchini, it gets all mushy. This is one of the reasons I don’t like it much. However, if you like to cook with it, then the canning or freezing options are for you. I like to cold pickle things, mainly peppers. You can cut the green and yellow squash into sticks and use my cold pickle technique. People really seem to like this. Go figure.
Let’s look at each method.
The easiest thing to do is to freeze them. Provided you have a freezer to put them in. Best thing is to get Ziploc-type freezer bags and use a straw to suck out as much air as you can to both reduce the volume of the bag, and to prevent freezer burn. I like to slice them into half-inch slices and then cut those in half moon shapes. drop them into boiling water for about 2 minutes, then fish them out and place them in a big bowl of ice water. When cool, drain them into a colander, then pat dry and place them on wax paper on a cookie sheet. The point of individual freezing is that they don’t weld themselves together in the freezer, and should be much easier to cook with later.
Put them in the freezer for two hours, and when frozen, place them in bags for what you would use for a single meal. Suck out the air, seal the bag, and stack ’em in the freezer. They will keep until your next crop next year. You can also do this with julienne-sliced pieces, but you should only blanche these for a about a minute or so.
This is more complex, but does not require freezing. It does require a bunch of mason jars, lids, and bands, and a big canning pot. Also, you need a place to store the jars, but there is no need to refrigerate. I like to slightly pickle them and place other colorful vegetables in the jar with them. I typically have tons of peppers, so I put some of those in just to spice things up. You can also put in some carrot sticks for color, but remember, you are trying to get rid of zucchini, so don’t take up too much room with other stuff. Cut three 1-lb zucchinis into half-inch slices, then cut those in half to make half-moons. Cut up two large onions into thin slices, cut up peppers in to rings if that’s to your taste.
Make a pickling syrup using:
8 cups of water
1 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of sugar (or substitute)
3 tablespoons of salt
3 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
Bring to a boil, and set aside
After sterilizing the jars, drain them, and fill them with the zucchini, onions, peppers and what-not. Then fill the jars with the pickling syrup. Wipe away any excess on the outside of the jar, then place a lid and band onto each jar. Place all the jars back into canning pot and boil for 8-10 minutes, then fish out the jars. Put them on a towel to let them cool. Then file them away in your pantry until the fall when there’s not a zucchini in sight. Give some away to your friends, but you can probably kiss those jars goodbye. I have not had good experience with friends returning jars.
This is my favorite. I cut the squash into sticks; shorter ones for pint jars, or longer ones for quarts. The sticks are about a half-inch wide. It really looks cool if you have both green and yellow zucchinis (I do) so you can alternate colors with the skin side out. Once again, throw some hot peppers in there if you want to spice things up a bit. Fill as many jars as you have squash, and set them aside.
I use the same pickle that I use for my pickled peppers. Note that this brine is a lot more vinegary than the canning syrup. Helps mask the taste of the zucchini.
3 cups of water
3 cups of white vinegar
3/4 cups of sugar (or substitute)
1/4 cup of salt
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 tablespoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
Bring to a boil, then carefully pour the liquid into each jar until almost full. Place a lid and band on each, and set aside to cool. Remember, these are not sterilized, so you have to refrigerate them. My experience is that they last quite long in the fridge, though. I give a lot of these away. Because you don’t cook the zucchini, the sticks are crisper with the consistency of a crisp pickle.
The suggestions above should help you alleviate your zucchini problem. Next year, don’t plant so damn many. But you will.
Daytripping (through the garden) With Rick