Editor’s note: With long hot days spreading across the land, don’t give up on getting some heat-loving plants started in the ground or large pots. You’ll be able to eek out a mid-to-late September harvest to accompany your end-of-season tomatoes and eggplants. (First posted June 2011)
Looking for a veggie that will yield a high amount of produce in your garden this summer? You can’t go wrong with zucchini. Growing one zucchini plant will leave you in a constant search for recipes just to keep up with how quickly the plant produces!
Zucchini is one of the more bountiful varieties of summer squash, and joins others that may be familiar on display at local farmer’s market vendors or on grocer’s shelves: the UFO-shaped green patty pan and the yellow crookneck. All varieties of summer squash will produce until the fall if planted in the early summer, but a zucchini plant or two will provide you with a tasty speckled-green squash that’s delicious raw or cooked all throughout the fall when conditions are just right!
Planting, cultivating, and harvesting
Zucchini plants are easy to grow and fun to watch because they produce so fast, and are so prolific. If your garden gets enough sunlight, and you make sure to water consistently when the soil is dry, your zucchini plant will thrive. Mulching around the base of the plant is a good idea since it is difficult to weed once the plant becomes large. Keep an eye on how big these plants get, as they tend to block sunlight and overwhelm other veggies and herbs that are within 2-3 feet of its base.
Zucchini should be harvested when the produce is still small and tender, after about 60-70 days of growth. Picking small and ripe zucchini is better than letting them grow on the plant for a long time, as the taste can get more bitter in larger squashes. In addition to better flavor, smaller zucchini also have more nutrients; and picking them earlier also stimulates growth and sends energy to the new blossoms.
Tasty ways to use your bounty
There are many ways to cook and eat zucchini, and this delicious vegetable can be incorporated into any meal! For breakfast, scramble thinly-sliced or cubed zucchini with tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggs to add a little variety to your morning routine.
For lunch or dinner, zucchini is great when sliced and then grilled on the barbecue. Marinating ahead of time in barbecue sauce or olive oil and spices combo will give it a little extra oomph. Grilling burgers? How about zucchini fries as a side dish? It’s also a tasty addition to any stir-fry or homemade pasta dish.
And while it’s great cooked, this earthy vegetable tastes just as fantastic raw. Shred or shave one, toss it in olive oil and garlic, add a little salt and pepper – and you have a delectable and healthy light meal. You can even get a little fancier by adding a few drops of lemon juice and a dash of dijon.
One more tip: don’t toss those giant yellow/orange blossoms at the top of the squash out! They are delicious when breaded and fried. Cook until golden brown and serve as an appetizer or side dish.
Growing zucchini couldn’t be easier, and learning to serve this hearty vegetable in a variety of ways is a delicious culinary adventure that won’t disappoint!