If you have neighbors or colleagues who are gardeners, it’s the season those green baseball bats keep showing up. They’re trying to pass off extra zucchini as gifts. Luckily, as Josh Lawler, Chef and Owner of Philadelphia’s Farm and Fisherman Restaurant, observes there are plenty of ways to deal with this sea of monster squash.
“I love zucchini. It is versatile, its interesting,” said Chef Lawler. “There’s a lot of different varieties and it is a good vegetable because you can use it in a lot of different stages in its life.”
So, how did we get here with all that squash? Sally McCabe, a project manager at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, explains how that contrary zucchini grows.
“Here’s the way the plant does it. It puts out flowers and they are the male flowers first and it puts out maybe a dozen, then it puts out the female flowers. The flowers are the right shape for bees and they go from male flower to female flower and all along the way they are picking up pollen and dropping pollen. And that’s what makes the fruit,” said McCabe.
So, um, that begs the question — are the zucchini having sex?
McCabe swiftly answered, “Nah, the zucchini’s not having sex. I don’t think the zucchini’s getting any satisfaction of this male and female thing, but the bees sure are.”
McCabe said she’s not sure why zucchini is so prolific, but it might have something to do with survival. “The object of the plant isn’t to feed us zucchini, it’s to get those seeds mature.”
In essence: no zucchini, no seeds; no seeds, no future plants.
Back in Chef Lawler’s kitchen, there are many ways to deal with the zucchini glut. One tip to keep them at bay is to pick the female flowers just as they start to produce fruit.
“Pick blossoms in morning while still open, once closed they are harder to deal with because you try to open to stuff break. There’s also usually insects, if you pick while they are open all you have to do is shake [them] out,” said Chef Lawler.
Lawler’s tip is to store them on a lightly damp newspaper or towel and they should keep in the refrigerator for two or three days. For a traditional dish, stuff them with crab and cheese, or create your own stuffing as he does.
“What we do at the restaurant,” said Lawler, “is we take the zucchini and dice it up, cook with onions cool it down mix with ricotta and mint and pipe that into blossoms. Bread it and sauté in pan with a tempura batter or sautee it in a pan.”
For the larger, tougher squash, the usual recommendation is to make bread, but Lawler’s advice is to freeze it so it doesn’t hang around until it becomes a brick. That way, you can enjoy them post-zucchini gut.
“Pull them out every once in a while,” said Lawler, “Dice it up and make it into bread pudding or take pieces, make croutons for a salad or drop into minestrone soup at a last second.
For a really unusual dish, Lawler roasts a five inch zucchini for 24 hours low and slow as if it were a barbecue beef brisket.
He said, “You wind up with crispy skin and the inside is all mushy and caramelized. We serve it with barbecue onion sauce and tomato marmalade.”
You can find the recipe below and more ideas for zucchini on WHYY’s FIT website.
Raw Zucchini Salad with Prunes and Tamari Dressing
Zucchini is excellent eaten raw, retaining its crunchy texture when julienned into long, thin strands. Tossed with sweet prunes and drizzled with a savory and tangy, honey-sweetened tamari-based salad dressing, it makes for a perfect appetizer or vegetable side to any roasted or grilled meats or seafood. Recipe courtesy of Corrine Trang from Asian Flavors Diabetes Cookbook.
Serves 6 / Serving size: 1/2 cup
1 tablespoon light tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon raw organic local honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
4 medium zucchini, lightly chilled and julienned lengthwise
8 pitted prunes, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the tamari, honey, vinegar, sesame oil, and oil. Add the zucchini, prunes, and black pepper to taste. Toss and serve.