Summer Squashes

When somebody tells you zucchini is Italian soul food, that's okay. But if they say zucchini came over on the boat with Columbus, inform them they've got the direction backwards. Both summer and winter squash are natives of the United States that migrated to Europe! A meal of squash, beans, corn, and venison was a basic native American supper. Summer squashes are grown, cooked, and preserved quite differently than are winter squashes (see next section). Zucchini, marrow, scalloped pattypan squash (or "white bush scallop" or "cymling"), cocozelle (see "Craft Gourds"), yellow crookneck, and yellow straightneck are some varieties of summer squash.

climate and Soil: I've never heard of a place you couldn't grow summer squash. The longer the growing season, the longer they bear. In 40 to 55 days your first young summer squash is ready to eat. There's no point in starting them indoors and transplanting because they can't take having their roots disturbed. Summer squashes need to be planted in warm soil, well past frost, and they need warm weather to grow in. They like well-manured, well-composted soil and wood ashes. Keep down the weeds. planting: How many plants? Summer squashes are prolific—especially zucchini! Even when small children plant and care for it, it grows. It blooms abundantly without fail and produces abundantly. Two plants are probably enough for a small family, 4 plants provide plenty for you plus some to give away to friends, and 8 plants give a large family a whole winter's supply. If you plant a whole package of zucchini seed, it will grow and grow and grow. There will be no way to eat, use, or give away all that summer squash— unless you have animals, that is. We grow it for pig feed. Plant summer squash 1 inch deep, 4 feet between hills and 4 feet between rows. For a container garden, plant 1 per 8-inch pot, 1 foot deep, 5 gallons of soil per plant, 2 feet between plants if they're in something like a window box. harvesting: Pick your zucchini when they're small. You'll get the tastiest, tenderest ones if you harvest them very young, when they're less than 4 to 6 inches in diameter (if they're the kinds that grow long). Harvest when the skin is so tender that you can easily press your fingernail through it. You'll also be spared wondering how to use the extra pounds of veggies that will grow if you leave them on the vine a few days longer. As long as you keep picking, your plants keep producing. If you leave squashes unpicked, they get bigger, their skin gets tougher, and their seeds get bigger and tougher. But the squashes are still edible. If you're fully supplied and your summer squash plants are still producing—which they will do as long as you keep picking and frost hasn't arrived—you can quit watering them. Or let them grow the last squashes undisturbed for a seed crop. Or attack the plants with an ax while screaming! preserving: Cellar-store, freeze, can, or dry your summer squashes.

Cellar-Storing. Let the squashes grow as big as they will; pick and store in a cool place. They'll keep a couple of months or so. From Kat Atkins, Coquille, OR: "I save the huge zucchinis and put them in with the winter squash. They turn from green to yellow. Out of an average 20,1 have to cut off a 6-inch section as one starts to soften. The rest I cook whole, cut in half and, depending on how we had it last, I clean it out and fill it with butter and syrup, honey, hot applesauce, or . . . Here I've already started my seedling plants for this year, and I have IVj boxes of zucchini left. Maybe a cake?"

Freezing. Wash; peel if you like. Slice about V2 inch thick. Blanch about 3 minutes, chill, and package. This works fine with great huge summer squashes as well as with little ones. I don't freeze more than a few bucketfuls though, because my family just doesn't have that much desire for frozen zucchini. Drying. Wash; peel if you like. Slice Vs inch thick. Recommended: Steam 6 minutes. Spread in thin layer. Turn as necessary while drying so they won't mildew. Dry until brittle. Dried summer squash is good with dips (eat like potato chips—it's better for you!). Try them with a yogurt-based dip or in soup.

W> ZUCCHINI CHIPS From Ruth of Bonaire: "Slice zucchini in 'A-inch slices and dunk in tamari. Sprinkle with paprika and then dry until crispy using a dehydrator (12 hours), a 100 °F oven (16 hours), or the sun (time varies). Store in plastic bags at room temperature." Yellow straightneck squash is good fixed this way.

ci> DRIED OVERGROWN ZUCCHINI To manage overgrown zukes, cut into sections, peel, remove seeds, shred, and dry. Don't blanch. Use in soup and spaghetti sauce and in casseroles (mix with shredded cheese), where it will soak up broth and thicken.

Canning. The USDA does not recommend canning summer squash. However, here are 2 recipes for summer squash combos that are recommended by the USDA.

<Í> CANNED TOMATOES WITH ZUCCHINI An average of 12 lb. of tomatoes and 4 lb. of zucchini is needed per 7-qt canner load. An average of 7 lb. of tomatoes and 2A2 lb. zucchini is needed per 9-pt. canner load. Wash tomatoes and zucchini. Scald and peel the tomatoes. Slice or cube the zucchini. Bring tomatoes to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add zucchini and boil gently 5 minutes. Fill jars with mixture, leaving I inch headspace. Add I t salt per quart if desired. Adjust lids and process in a pressure canner: 30 minutes for pints, 35 minutes for quarts. If using a weighted-gauge canner, set at 10 lb. pressure at 0-1,000 feet above sea level; set at 15 lb. at higher altitudes. If using a dial-gauge canner, set at 11 lb. pressure at 0-2,000 feet above sea level; 12 lb. at 2,001-A,000 feet; 13 lb. at 4,001-6,000 feet; 14 lb. at 6,001-8,000 feet; or 15 lb. above 8,000 feet

W> SUMMER SQUASH BREAD-AND-BUTTER PICKLES, CANNED Substitute zucchini or any other slender (I to I Ai inches in diameter) green or yellow summer squash for the cucumbers in the Bread-and-Butter Pickle recipe in the "Cucumbers" section.

cooking: Mary Ann Shepherd, Del Mar, CA, wrote me: "Last year we really overprogrammed on zucchini, and one of our house guests reported that when you visit the Shepherds, you have zucchini for breakfast (bread), lunch (raw in salads and pickled), dinner (as a vegetable—grated and stir-fried with mushrooms) and dessert (chocolate cake) as well as for canapes (raw sticks marinated in salad dressing or raw sticks to dunk with), and she expected the furniture to be made from it next year!"

Both these garden-to-table cookbooks have very good zucchini sections: The Home Garden Cookbook, from Seed to Plate by Ken and Pat Kraft and The Kitchen Garden Book by Stringfellow Barr and Stella Standard. Lane Morgan says: "I like The Zucchini Cookbook by Paula Simmons [Seattle: Pacific Search, 1975], She has good recipes for stuffing the great big ones. The Territorial Seed Co. Cookbook has 33 mostly wholesome zucchini recipes, including my personal favorite." recipe Ideas: With zucchini that has been harvested young, frying, baking, or steaming give you better results than boiling because summer squash is mostly water anyway. You don't have to peel 'em unless they're old and tough-skinned. For more recipes suitable for summer squash, see "Using" under "Chayote" and "Recipe Ideas" under "Fuzzy Melon" (both are in the "Exotic Squashes" section). Raw. Serve raw in sticks with a dip. Or serve grated or chunked in a tossed salad with a zesty dressing. Or make into a salad dressing: peel, de-seed, chop 2 or 3 large cucumbers, liquefy in blender, add a few squirts lemon juice and a dash of garlic powder (or 1 small minced clove), and thicken with tahini.

Sauteed. Slice and cook in butter 10 minutes. Or slice, dip in egg batter and then flour, and French-fry. Or fry in butter in a pan with chopped onions. Or mix chunks with chopped parsley and basil and add to an omelet. Or stir-fry with onions, carrots, meat strips, garlic, and a bay leaf. Or stir-fry with sliced mushrooms, sprouts, beef slices, tomato slices, and soy sauce. Or saute sliced zuke with precooked chopped onion and bacon, canned tomatoes, and a bit of seasoning (garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper) until all is cooked and hot (from a precious saint, reader Tannis Prosser). Or stir-fry shredded summer squash and onions together in a little tamari with a pinch of curry, or use tomato sauce instead of tamari and add a pinch of basil and oregano (from Ruth of Bonaire).

Baked. Or bake in an oiled casserole dish (with tomatoes, garlic, and basil or fennel) with Parmesan cheese on top. Or bake in a casserole dish halved or quartered summer squash layered with pork chops and halved onions. Or slice into '/2-inch slices, put into a baking dish, dot with butter, sprinkle with salt and finely chopped onion, add just enough water (or cream) to cover the bottom of the dish, cover, and bake until tender. Or slice into a baking dish, add enough tomato juice to barely cover, and bake—or cover with homemade tomato sauce mixed with a little soft tofu (this makes a good main dish). Or grate and add to any bread mix.

MASHED ZUCCHINI Mash I zucchini. Mix with I grated onion, I c. mashed cooked cauliflower, garlic, and a dash of tamari. Add A4 c. whole wheat flour and A21. baking powder. Bake I hour at 350°F.

Boiled. Boil in a little water until tender; then drain, season with butter, and serve. Or cook, mash, season, and serve.

Or boil briefly with cut-up green peppers and tomato, garlic, and oregano. Or simmer chunks with onions, tomatoes, and fennel until tender. Or slice zuke into frying pan; add 1 T. tamari, 1 T. water, a bunch of sliced green onions, and 1 T. chopped fresh herbs for each zuke; cover and steam until tender (about 5 minutes).

<i> LANE'S MOM'S ZUCCHINI SOUP "My mom makes the best zucchini soup: Steam and puree a bunch of young zucchinis. Add a little milk and/or chicken stock, some sauteed onion, some parsley and dill or other herbs to taste, and a bit of salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold, with a little yogurt or sour cream on top. Use the nicest youngest zucchinis for this —that's where the good flavor comes from."

<i> CHEESE SUMMER SQUASH Cut maybe 9 little squashes in half and steam in water 10 minutes. Then lay in a buttered ovenproof dish, sliced sides up. Sprinkle with salt and Vi t. sage. Dot with butter. Sprinkle about Vi c. grated Cheddar cheese over the top and put in 325°F oven until cheese is melted.

<i> SOUR CREAM SUMMER SQUASH Cut about 2 lb. squash into I inch slices. Sprinkle them with Vi t salt Let stand an hour and then drain. In a frying pan, saute squash in margarine or oil with Vi c. chopped onion. When squash is tender, add I c. sour cream mixed with 4 t flour. Bring to a boil. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

<&> BAKED SQUASH SOUFFLE From Arlene Jackson, Santee, CA: Boil 3 or 4 zucchini squashes until tender. Mash. Brown I diced medium-sized onion in margarine. Add to mashed zucchini some onion, grated cheese, 2 or 3 beaten eggs, a pinch of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and pour into casserole. Dot with butter and, if desired, grated cheese (Parmesan) or cracker meal. Bake about I hour at 350°F. Slivered almonds browned in margarine can be added to topping.

Continue reading here: Winter Squashes

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