Years ago my mailman would pick up my overabundance of large, green zucchinis and deliver them to squash lovers along his route. Part of why I had too many squash was my repertoire: zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini and vegetable sautés. The other reason; I grew only dark green zucchinis. Today, I grow yellow, light and dark green, and bi colored zucchinis, and numerous round and scalloped summer squash, but I seldom have too many. Now I layer long thin zucchini slices in lasagna or combine yellow and green varieties and serve them in a salad or ratatouille. I shred summer squash and add it to coleslaw, risotto, corn-meal pancakes, zucchini bread with crystallized ginger, and to minestrone. To cut production, sometimes I harvest the squash as babies, combining ones of different shapes and colors for a sauté, pasta primavera, or use them as a garnish. For the best flavor though, I usually harvest zucchinis from 4 and 6 inches long and the round ones when a few inches across. And when my squash population does get out of hand I harvest all the blossoms and use them for soup or in a wonderful omelet.
Of course, some gardeners have problems growing summer squash, but modern breeding has solved many squash problems. For instance, the variety ‘Sunny Delight’ replaces the virus prone ‘Sunburst,’ and for areas of the country where bees are scarce, ‘Sure Thing’ sets fruit without pollination. For the folks who struggle with squash vine borers, there is the heirloom ‘Tromboncino’ that seems quite resistant. May you too have an abundance of summer squash to enjoy!
Summer Squash Tips
Select squash varieties that grow well in your climate. Look for the new disease resistant ones if you’ve had previous problems and choose the large vining Tromboncino if squash borers are a problem.
Choose a site in full sun. Plant 3 or 4 squash seeds 6″ apart in a 3′ wide mound of fast-draining, rich, organic soil. Keep the seed bed moist but not soggy.
Cover the mound with a 3′ wide sheet of spun bond fiber to protect the seedlings.
Thin the seedlings to 1 or 2 plants and replace the sheet of to protect the plants from cucumber beetles and squash-vine borers.
‘Caserta’ – bush squash, green-striped zucchini-like squash; open pollinated; developed in 1949 (Harris)
‘Eight Ball’ – bush squash, dark-green, round squash; prolific, hybrid, challenging to harvest when fruits get wedged in place (Nichol’s, Parks, Stokes)
‘Ronde de Nice’ – bush squash, round light-green squash, open pollinated; old French favorite
‘Sunny Delight’ – bush squash, scalloped bright yellow, hybrid; prolific; quite resistant to squash viruses (stokes)
‘Sun Drop’ – bush; elliptical light-yellow squash; hybrid; not very prolific (Parks)
‘Sure Thing’ – bush, deep-green zucchini; hybrid, prolific; produces fruit without pollination
‘Tromboncino’ – vining; long and thin fruits have a bell at the bottom; mild, sweet flavor; need a strong trellis; resistant to squash vine borer (Cooks)
‘Yellow Crookneck’ – bush, classic curved neck, warty yellow skin; creamy texture and clear squash flavor; open pollinated; not a heavy producer
Sunny Delight Squash Blossom Omelet
Squash blossoms can be combined with red peppers and yellow zucchinis for a colorful and especially tasty entree. Choose from ‘Sunny Delight,’ ‘Gold Rush,’ and ‘Sunburst,’ yellow summer squashes for the most vivid color. To keep the blossoms fresh, harvest them in early morning and put them stem side down in a glass of water and store them in the refrigerator until needed.
For the filling:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
6 baby yellow and green summer squash, cut in half
6 large squash blossoms
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the omelet:
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 large eggs
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
In a large nonstick sauté pan heat the olive oil and sauté the onions over medium heat until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Remove the onion mixture to a bowl and set it aside. Put the zucchinis in the pan and sauté them until lightly browned. Add the onion mixture to the zucchinis in the pan.
Carefully open the squash blossoms and remove any possible critters. Remove the stamens and pistils and coarsely chop the flowers. Add the chopped blossoms and the basil to the zucchini pan, season with the salt and pepper, cover and set aside.
To make the omelet:
In a small mixing bowl mix 3 of the eggs with a fork. In a nonstick 8- to 10” sauté pan heat the olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Pour the eggs into the pan, they should sizzle. Tilt the pan in a few directions to assure that the mixture evenly coats the pan and give the mixture a gentle shake to make sure it is not sticking. With a spatula, gently lift sections of the cooked portions and let a little of the uncooked egg flow underneath. When most of the egg is set but the top is still moist, over one half of the omelet sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese and spoon half of the vegetable filling over the cheese. With a spatula make sure the omelet is not sticking and then gently fold the other half of the omelet over the filling. Slide the omelet onto a preheated plate, garnish with the chopped chives and whole zucchini blossoms. Repeat the process for the second omelet.
Zucchini Bread with Crystallized Ginger
This is a variation on my time-honored recipe for zucchini bread. I love it toasted and covered with cream cheese.
Makes 2 loaves.
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 ½ cups grated zucchini, yellow or green
1/4 to 1/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped fine
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans
In a large bowl beat the eggs. Beat in sugar, then oil and vanilla. Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix. Sift the dry ingredients into another bowl to mix thoroughly. Add dry mixture to egg mixture and stir lightly. Add zucchini, crystallized ginger, pecans, and raisins, and stir well. Pour into 2 well-greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.