Today we are bringing you an article from a guest author that has a wonderful website full of delicious recipes that are all easy and tasty to make. Elizabeth Trementozzi Krause has kindly contributed this article on a very common yet misunderstood vegetable that has many uses in the kitchen. Please read, enjoy and let us know what you think!
Transforming zucchini from a seed in your garden to a meal on your plate.
We call it ‘zucchini’ here in the Americas, but where the British and French roam, it is known as ‘courgette.’ Technically, it is not a vegetable, but an immature fruit, as it is the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. Sounds pretty unappetizing, until you sauté it in a little butter or olive oil with garlic and onion.
How to Grow
Zucchini is one of the easier vegetables to grow; only taking 45- 55 days to grow to maturity. Begin planting after the last frost date or when the temperature is consistently 65 degrees Fahrenheit or above. If your soil is already full of organic materials, you typically do not need to include additional fertilizer to the soil since these are such wonderful natural producers. However, if needed add some fertilizer to help the plants along.
In your gardening bed, make large, flat mounds of soil, spacing them about three feet apart. Into each mound, plant 3 or 4 seeds at least six inches from each other and water generously at least once a week. The idea behind all this spacing is that when the vines grow, they will need room to run; to really stretch out. Once the zucchini seeds have begun to grow, thin them down to only 2 or 3 per mound. Do not thin by pulling the plants by their roots as this can disturb nearby plants. Simply use a scissors and snip the unwanted plants at their base.
You will know when your zucchinis are ready for harvesting when they approach 5 to 6 inches in length. Waiting until the zucchini are too large can result in a tougher outer skin. However, if you discover you missed a few zucchinis which are now overgrown, try using the insides of the plant for a nice zucchini soup.
Keep in mind, if kept unchecked, zucchini will take over your garden. One recommended way to keep this from happening is to eat the large, female flowers on the ends as they blossom. Sure, you could eat them raw, but then you would miss out on a great Italian recipe for fried zucchini blossoms. Simply wash the blossoms gently and then stuff them with herbed ricotta cheese. Next, dredge the blossoms in an eggwash and breadcrumbs mixture. You can use Italian breadcrumbs, plain breadcrumbs or even your own if you are so inclined. Pan fry them in a sauce pan over medium-high heat and let drain on paper towels on a plate. You will end up with a wonderful easy appetizer that would stop Julia Child in her tracks. Some Italians are known to fry the blossoms without any stuffing, and just pan fry them with the egg and breadcrumbs mixture.
Zucchini can be frozen by cutting them into slices and placing them in containers or sealed freezer bags. Place in the freezer but remember, label and date each bag since the life span is 4 to 6 months. To extend the storage life for up to 12 months, blanch the zucchini for 3 minutes, and then cool completely before freezing.
While most squashes are considered native to the Americas, the squash we know as ‘zucchini’ has its roots in Italy, and did not become popular in the United States until the 1920’s. The cocozelle zucchini is an Italian variety which cannot be mistaken for its striped pattern of alternating dark and light green lines. This variety makes for a beautiful presentation in a variety of dishes. A simple way to prepare the zucchini is to cut in half length wise and drizzle a few tablespoons of Italian olive oil on top. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes spoon some tomato sauce on top and sprinkle with Romano cheese. Zucchini is ready when the inside is very soft and a fork easily cuts through the inside of the zucchini. Serve while warm.
Nearly every backyard garden includes zucchini – and it is no wonder why. These easy to grow vegetables (or immature fruits) provide a variety of culinary uses from simple appetizers and salads to the staple ingredient in a main meal. No matter how you choose to use them, these green vegetables will give you great eating pleasure throughout the summer months.
This article was contributed by Elizabeth Trementozzi Krause publisher of SimpleItalianCooking.com where she offers free Italian cooking recipes. Elizabeth’s favorite dish is angel hair served in individual pasta bowls with fresh tomato sauce and cheese. She often includes vegetables in her recipes. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband who also grew up in an Italian home. They appreciate Italian culture from love of food to using an Italian espresso maker for a quick shot of espresso.