Zucchini bread is not a vegetable!
While harvesting zucchini from my garden, a social media post I saw several years ago came to mind. It was an older gentleman walking around his neighborhood at night depositing zucchini-filled bags on his neighbor’s doorsteps! Maybe you are also wondering what to do with all your zucchini.
Zucchini, a summer squash, is probably the best-known summer squash; however other varieties include pattypan, yellow straight-neck, yellow crookneck, and chayote.
According to the University of Illinois Extension’s 2021 “Watch Your Garden Grow: Summer Squash” fact sheet, summer squash, unlike winter squash, is harvested before the rind hardens and the fruit matures, resulting in tender edible skin.
For best quality, harvest or purchase smaller squash. Zucchini and other elongated squash should be about 6-8 inches long and 2 inches or less in diameter. Pattypan and other round types should be 3-4 inches in diameter. Larger squash are edible, but the skin will be tougher, the flesh stringier and less tender with more and larger seeds.
Be careful when handling summer squash; the skin is thin and easily bruised. The 2016 Penn State Extension “Pennsylvania Produce: A Guide to Produce Grown in Pennsylvania” publication recommends selecting squash that are crisp, free of blemishes or wrinkles with no signs of mold.
Store summer squash in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. They are best used within 2 or 3 days of purchase or harvest but will keep for up to 5 days. Do not wash the zucchini or other squash until you are ready to prepare.
While your neighbor may want to give you the gigantic zucchini from their garden, zucchini and other summer squash are at their nutritional peak when harvested at the smaller, less mature stage, as previously described.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate.gov website notes that 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables equals one serving, with recommended servings for adults between 2-4 cups a day. Summer squash are very low-calorie foods providing approximately 20 calories per 1 cup serving.
Depending on the type of squash, a serving also provides between 4 and 18% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and fiber, according to Washington State University Extension’s 2018 “Fresh from the Farm: Summer Squash” brochure. To get the most nutrition, eat the flesh, seeds, and skin of the vegetable.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation website has research-based recommendations for preserving summer squash. For long-term preservation, the best method is freezing. Summer squash can be frozen as slices or grated. When freezing, blanching is a critical step as it inactivates enzymes that cause the squash to continue to mature, resulting in off colors, flavor, and toughening.
Other methods of preservation include drying and pickling. Dried summer squash makes great chips for a dip. There are no safe, tested methods of canning slices or cubes of zucchini, but there are recipes for making Pickled Bread and Butter Zucchini or Zucchini Pineapple.
There are many ways to enjoy these healthy summer vegetables:
— When you are ready to use, gently rub the squash under cool running water, trim the ends but do not peel (this is where the nutrients are!).
— Slice into strips, rounds, or chunks and eat raw, with a dip, or as an ingredient in salads.
— Slice squash in half and drizzle with olive oil, add your favorite seasonings, and bake or grill.
— Combine with other vegetables in a stir fry, add to soups, pasta salad, casseroles, or steam and top with grated Parmesan cheese.
— Finally, there is the stand-by zucchini bread. Since most recipes call for around 2 cups of zucchini, that means you would have to eat half the loaf to get your one-cup serving of zucchini- probably not a good idea! Better to enjoy in moderation.
One last tidbit of information from Utah State University Extension website, “How to Preserve Zucchini,” that you might be interested in is the bright orange, and yellow flowers of the plant are also edible! In Mexico, the flower is preferred over the vegetable and is cooked in soups and used as a filling in quesadillas.
For something a little different, try this zucchini pancake recipe from USDA MyPlate.gov website. It makes two pancakes and is excellent as a side dish served with applesauce or sour cream.
2 cups grated zucchini or other summer squash
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 egg, beaten
1¢ Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese
™ teaspoon dried parsley
¢ teaspoon garlic powder
Pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil (or cooking spray)
1. Start with clean countertops and equipment
2. Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Dry with a single-use paper towel.
3. Gently rub vegetables under cold, running water. Prepare as directed.
4. Beat egg, wash hands after touching the egg. Mix all ingredients except oil. Blend well.
5. Form the mixture into patties 3-4 inches in diameter. Wash hands after forming patties.
6. Heat the oil. Cook pancakes for 3-4 minutes per side, remove and drain on paper towels.
Nutrition Information: 146 calories, 10g total fat, 9g total carbohydrate, 6g protein
Laurie Welch is a nutrition and family issues educator with Penn State Cooperative Extension, 570-726-0022.