Zucchini handling

Zucchini bagged

What to do with too many zucchini or summer squash is a recurring topic on gardening websites, blogs and forums. In the years when I have a zucchini glut (which is not a given, there were years when the striped cucumber beetle wipes out all the plants) I find myself looking for new recipes that use a lot of zucchini – we are talking baskets and baskets full. Continue reading

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One hot oven, two spreads

Spreads

Starting to plan the garden (finally!) also means using up what’s in the freezer. And that contains several bags of frozen grated zucchini from last year’s bumper crop, more than I could possibly turn into zucchini pancakes without getting really tired of them. Continue reading

Round and lonely survivors

Calamities are part of gardening reality but I still cannot get used to it, and probably never will. Last year there were no eggplants due to flea beetles. This year, several dozen cucumber, summer squash and melon seedlings died on me, either chewed into oblivion by the striped cucumber beetle, or killed later by the bacterial wilt that the beetles transmit. The latest victim to the disease were the Hubbard squashes, which had grown as tall as the fence and just started to set fruit. I pulled the entire patch last week. Don’t mention it. Two cucumber plants are just hanging in there. I am trying not to get my hopes up too high for cucumber salad.

None of the gardeners I spoke to around here seems to have the same troubles. Driving by a pumpkin patch yesterday and seeing that field of healthy verdure made me jealous. Yet I should not forget that unlike many other parts of the country, we had plenty of rain here in northeast Pennsylvania. We are very fortunate; there could be many more failed crops.

And, there is a consolation prize in my garden! A friend of a friend had given me two plants of Tondo di Piacenza, an Italian heirloom zucchini. Although the beetles are populating them as well, the plants seem to be resistant (so far) and I am picking one or two beautiful round zucchini every other day. They are great for stuffing but now that I have more than just a couple, I can finally make my Zucchini Quiche with Goat Feta that I have been craving all summer.

Maybe I will switch to growing Tondo di Piacenza next year. But next year there might be no trouble with striped cucumber beetles, and some other calamity will hit a different crop. You never know.

Zucchini glut? I wish

Usually in July I try to find new zucchini recipes. Not this year. The cucumber family in my garden has taken a terrible beating. Between zucchini, cucumbers and my beloved Charentais melons (no sorbet this year, alas), I lost more than 25 seedlings to the striped cucumber beetle. Not only does it eat the plants, it also transmits bacterial wilt, a disease that makes plants collapse overnight and against which there is no cure.

I thought the worst was over but yesterday I found my only surviving zucchini plant spread out in a sad wilted mass, full of blossoms and baby zucchini. The zucchini are perfectly fine to eat, and since we won’t have zucchini for a while, the pilaf I made with them tasted quite special. The next set of seedlings is just ready for transplanting, and who knows whether they will even make it that far.

I made a promise to myself: never to complain about too many zucchini ever again!

Quinoa Zucchini Pilaf

This can also be made with regular zucchini, in which case the seeds should be removed.

1 cup quinoa

Salt

6 to 8 baby zucchini, or 1 medium zucchini

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces crumbled feta

1/2 preserved lemon, rind only, finely chopped

3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. Wash the quinoa thoroughly in cold water at least twice. Drain in a fine sieve.

2. Put the quinoa in a small saucepan with 1.5 cups water. Salt lightly and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the water has been completely absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

3. Dice the zucchini and halve the tomatoes. Heat the olive oil in a wide medium pot or a skillet and cook the garlic for 1 minute, do not let it brown. Add the zucchini and cook until it just starts to brown at the edges, stirring often.

4. Add the to tomatoes and cook for about 7 minutes, until most of their juice has evaporated.
Transfer to a large bowl.  Add the quinoa, feta, lemon rind and basil. Toss and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings