Yard Smarts

Use up your zuc­chini har­vest

Birds & Blooms - - Contents - BY SALLY ROTH

Slice it, grill it, fill it, fry it, bake it, pickle it, grate it, turn it into zoo­dles—mild­fla­vored zuc­chini is the most ver­sa­tile veg­gie in the gar­den. Des­per­a­tion may have some­thing to do with all those vari­a­tions, be­cause the more you pick, the more the plant pro­duces. And there’s usu­ally one that gets away, hid­ing un­der leaves and reach­ing an enor­mous size.

Zuc­chini is orig­i­nally na­tive to Mex­ico, but the squash we know to­day is a va­ri­ety brought to the United States by Ital­ian im­mi­grants. The early va­ri­eties, bred in Italy in the 16th cen­tury, were round. They were dubbed zuc­chini from zucca, mean­ing pump­kin, and ini, which means small. The elon­gated ver­sion we know, grow and love was de­vel­oped near Mi­lan.

The squash was used here but re­ally took off in the early 1970s with the hip­pies and their fo­cus on home gar­dens and veg­e­tar­i­an­ism. Soon, zukes be­gan pop­ping up in seed col­lec­tions (1973, for Burpee) and on gro­cery store coun­ters. Zuc­chini cook­books pro­lif­er­ated shortly af­ter—be­cause this veg­gie is gen­er­ous to a fault!

You can slow down the pro­duc­tion by eat­ing the fe­male flow­ers (look for a tiny zuke at the base of the blos­som), stuffed with cheese or meat and sauced or fried.

What to do with all that bounty? Eat it, do­nate it to a food bank, feed it to back­yard chick­ens and rab­bits…and have fun with it! Maybe hold a neigh­bor­hood con­test for big­gest zuc­chini, with a potluck of zuke dishes. Use pump­kin­car­v­ing tools to make de­signs in the outer skin for a cen­ter­piece. Bat a wif­fle ball with the gi­ant ones, then save and dry the ma­ture seeds for car­di­nals at the feeder.

When all else fails, cel­e­brate April Fools’ Day in Au­gust: Play a joke on a friend or neigh­bor by sneak­ily plac­ing your over­grown zukes among their plants. Or off­load your ex­tras on the doorstep of a friend or neigh­bor in the dark of night like the Tooth Fairy—but sur­prise, it’s a gi­ant zuke. All’s fair when it comes to zuc­chini.

The blooms from zuc­chini can be fried, baked or even added to pasta and soups.

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