Tag Archives: squash

Zucchini Abundance: 10 Great Ways to Use It

The great zucchini flood has started! This time of year you’ll find many gardeners and farmers with tables, counters, and cabinets overflowing with a bounty of zucchini and summer squash. The first few of the year always seem so magical but a few weeks in it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume just a few plants can produce. That’s why we’ve rounded up a few ways to use zucchini this season!

Cook It

Breaded & Fried

A simple, quick way to make super tasty zucchini is to bread it and fry it. It may not be the healthiest option but it’s definitely delicious. One of my favorite ways to bread it is with a bit of salt and bloody butcher cornmeal as pictured above. *We’re currently out of bloody butcher seed but you can find pungo creek butcher (a bloody butcher descendant) here.

Stuffed Zucchini

For larger zucchini, stuffing them and baking them is a great option. I  like to use up any fresh vegetables I have on hand, sauteing up onions, garlic, swiss chard, collards, peppers, and tomatoes and mixing them with rice, beans, and spices like oregano, basil, and chili powder. Scoop out the seeds and add this or your own mixture to the zucchini. Top with marinara sauce and bake, covered at 375°F for about 45 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti is a pretty common go-to meal for busy evenings. Next time you make spaghetti use up some of your zucchini by chopping it up into small chunks and sauteing it with onions and garlic before adding it to your spaghetti sauce. Don’t water bath can this type of spaghetti sauce though! The zucchini will decrease the acidity of the sauce making unsafe for canning.

Squash Souffle

Irena’s squash souffle is also a great option for using up zucchini. Follow the link above for this great recipe.

Bake Something

Zucchini’s mild flavor lends itself easily to a variety of baked goods. You can find recipes online for zucchini cakes, muffins, breads, even cookies! I’ve found it makes delicious and moist chocolate cake that can fool even picky eaters.

Preserve It

Zucchini Pineapple

Yes, it sounds super wierd but zucchini pineapple is actually delicious and easy to put up. Basically, all you do is water bath can zucchini in a mixture of pineapple juice, lemon juice, and sugar. It tastes great and can be eaten right of the jar or tossed on a pizza this winter! You can find a recipe over at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Zucchini Chips

Dehydration is a really simple and quick storage tecnique. Zucchini chips are easy to dehydrate and make an excellent snack. All you need to do is slice your zucchini into rounds about 1/4 inch thick, dunk the rounds in apple cider vinegar, and then toss them with spices before dehydrating for 10 hours at about 135°F. Make sure they are fully dry and crisp before moving them to airtight jars for storage.

Fermented Zucchini Pickles

Fermentation is an old and simple way of putting up the harvest. It’s also great for gut health. Fermented foods are full of healthy probiotics. Check out this fermented pickle recipe from Attainable Sustainable to use some of your bounty.

Freeze it

Zucchini is easy to freeze because unlike many vegetables it doesn’t need to be blanched first. For easy use, shred zucchini and freeze in portions for your favorite recipes like zucchini bread.

Other Ideas

Donate it

As a gardener it’s easy to forget how tasty and special fresh, homegrown zucchini is. Even if you’re tired of it there may be people in your area who would love some fresh zucchini. Talk to your neighbors. Maybe there’s someone nearby who’s no longer physically able to garden who would love some. Also, check with local food pantries.

 

Food waste is a rampant problem in the United States. This season try to make the most of all your garden produce. As a last resort chickens love zucchini if you have them or know someone who does.

Organic Pest Control: Squash Vine Borers

Early White Bush Scallop Summer Squash

Squash vine borers are a type of clearwing moth. They’re a bit unusual because unlike other moths they’re active during the daytime. The adults resemble wasps, are about 1/2 inch long, and have an orange abdomen with black dots. The adults lay eggs near the base of squash plants. These eggs take only about a week to hatch and then they bore into the base of the squash plant and up inside the stem, preventing the plant from getting water or nutrients from the soil.

Signs of their presence include the plants wilting, holes at the base of the plant, and of course spotting adults flying around plants. If your plant has vine borers present you can slice into the stem and kill the insects. If you carefully bury the wounded part of the stem with moist soil and keep it well watered your plant may survive. While this is an option, the best methods for combating vine borers are preventative.

Plant late.

Depending on how long your growing season is you may be able to avoid vine borers by planting your summer squash at the end of July. Adult vine borers typically lay eggs in late June or early July so your late planting of squash won’t be mature until after vine borers are finished laying eggs.

Use crop rotation.

Once squash borers feed for 4-6 weeks they burrow into the soil where they spend the winter pupating. Rotating crops can help minimize the pressure on your plants.

Choose resistant plants.

Some cucurbits are much less likely choices for vine borers. Try planting squashes in the moschata and argyosperma family as well as watermelons and cucumbers.  Check out the post below for how to use young winter squash like summer squash.

Winter Squash as Summer Squash

Invest in row cover.

Covering your squash with row cover before late June can prevent vine borers from reaching your plants to lay eggs. This method needs to be used in combination with crop rotation as vine borers hatch from the soil.

Plant a trap crop.

You may be able to eliminate some of your garden’s vine borer population using a trap crop. Wait until your plants have vine borer larvae present and then pull and burn the plants. You may never get all of them this way but it can help reduce the problem next year provided you don’t have close neighbors also growing squash.

If you struggle with squash vine borers in your garden consider trying one of these preventative methods this summer. They can help you combat squash vine borers in without resorting to pesticides.

The Three Sisters Garden Guide

The Three Sisters Garden has gained some popularity in recent years and for good reason. Unlike conventional agriculture The Three Sisters Garden works with nature to provide for the crops needs, keep maintanence low, and keep soil fertility up without the addition of chemical fertilizers. It’s was perfect for the Native Americans and is perfect modern organic gardener.

Before the advent of large agricultural equipment these features weren’t just nice and environmentally friendly they were necessary. Imagine gardening without metal tools, sprinklers or hoses, or commercial garden additives nevermind tractors and cultivators. The traditional Three Sisters Garden was easy to grow and provided the basic staples of the Native American diet. Together corn, beans, and squash provided balanced nutrition.

To plant a Three Sisters Garden the traditional way you should prepare a fairly large space. Corn needs plenty of plants in one area as it’s wind pollinated. In some cultures the space was circular to help with pollination. The corn is planted in hills about 5 inches high, 18 inches across and 5 feet apart. The tops should be flat to prevent rain water run off. These hills allow the soil to warm more quickly in the spring and allow for better drainage. Traditionally it was common to add some fertility to each hill like fish or fish scraps before planting. Unless you fish a lot, compost or manure will do for the modern garden. If using manure mix it with the soil or bury slightly so it doesn’t burn the plants. Plant 4 corns seeds in a six inch square in each hill.

Pungo Creek Butcher Dent Corn

Three Sisters gardening often works best with flint, dent, or flour corn varieties as they are harvested at the end of the season. If you choose sweet corn you’ll have to carefully make your way through sprawling squash plants to reap your harvest. Alternatively you can plant sunflowers in place of corn which was also done by some native cultures.

You can find Southern Exposure’s flour, flint, and dent corn varieties here. Native American varieties include Hickory Cane Dent Corn and Cherokee White Flour though other varieties work well too.

Once the corn is 4 inches tall it’s time to plant the beans. This is also a good time to give your patch a good weeding before the plants get large. Then you can plant 4 beans in each hill placing them 3 inches away from the corn plants completing your original square. They’ll use the corn plants as living trellis and provide them with nitrogen throughout the growing season. Corn is a very heavy feeder so sustained nitrogen is essential to a good crop. In choosing bean varieties make sure you purchase pole beans not bush beans. It’s also a good idea to choose native or heirloom varieties unless your using sunflowers in place of corn. Some modern bean varieties have such big vines they can be too heavy for corn plants.

Genuine Cornfield Pole Snap Beans

You’ll also want to consider whether you want green beans or drying beans. Some varieties are dual purpose. Most Native Americans planted and harvested their beans as drying beans so that they could be harvest in the fall and stored for winter use.

You can check out Southern Exposure’s pole beans here.

Once the beans have sprouted it’s time to weed again and then plant the squash. Planting squash too early can shade out beans before they have a chance to start climbing. The squash should be planted in the in new mounds identical to those that were for the corn and beans. Plant three seeds and thin to just two per hill. The squash vines ramble throughout the garden shading our weeds and keeping soil moist. This is particularly advantageous in areas prone to drought because corn also requires good moisture for good harvests. When the squash shows its first true leaves it’s probably time to weed again.

Choosing squash can be difficult because of the variety of options. Any vining plant (not bush) in the cucurbit family will do though most native american grew winter squash varieties and harvested all there crops in the fall for storage throughout the winter. At Southern Exposure our favorites tend to be moschata squash plants. These varieties are more resistant to the squash vine borer and can be harvested early and used in summer squash recipes or left to mature and harvested as winter squash for storage. Some people have also used cucumbers, watermelons, and gourds with great success. Just keep in mind with cucumbers and melons you’ll need to carefully make your way through your patch to harvest while the other plants are still growing.

Tan Cheese Pumpkin

You can find Southern Exposure’s winter squash here. Once again the moschata cultivars can be eaten early as summer squash or eaten as winter squash. These include varieties like Seminole Pumpkin, Tahitian Melon Winter Squash, Thai Kang Kob Pumpkin, and more.

While they are called Three Sisters Gardens many Native Americans included more than just three crops. For instance the Wampanoag people planted sunflowers on the North side of the garden so they wouldn’t shade the other crops but would help attract pollinators. Some cultures also incorporated pollinator plants like bee balm or other crops like tobacco or amaranth which is grown for its edible leaves and seeds.

Growing a three sisters garden can be an easy fun project for the organic gardener. It’s low maintenance and beautiful. Though most people don’t have to grow corns, beans, and squash as staples anymore it can be a great way to keep organic gardening techniques, cultural traditions, and seed saving alive and well.

If you’re having a hard time choosing plant varieties consider Southern Exposure’s Three Sisters Garden Package which includes Bloody Butcher Corn, Genuine Cornfield Beans, and Seminole Pumpkin Squash seeds plus a planting guide.