Beware the Zuke! by Elizabeth Tracey

Psalm 31:24Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.”

Farmers need both courage and faith when they grow zucchini, otherwise known as ‘zukes’ around FFF.  Courage because these plants are so unbelievably prolific, catalyzing that magic alchemy of sun, soil and water into a formidable array of vegetable biomass that then must be harvested, and also faith, that homes can be found for these members of the squash family, even when they are prodigious in size.

Mr. Dan reports that as of June 25, 2012, FFF has already harvested over 4.5 tons, yes indeed, that’s thousands of pounds, of zukes for the hungry. There are 1.5 acres of zukes on the farm this year, and since we’ve been blessed with wonderful weather, they are productive indeed.  Volunteers are hard at work harvesting, although some don’t like the prickly leaves of the plants brushing their arms and legs as they search for fruits. Might be a word to the wise to wear long sleeves and pants in the zuke patch.

Successfully removing zucchini from the plant is best accomplished using a twisting motion, Mr. Dan instructs.  Simply grasp the fruit at the blossom end and rotate in one direction until the stem breaks.  Even zucchini that are broken off a bit are still good at FFF, since the harvest is transported right away and the zukes eaten promptly.

Keeping up with a happy zuke plant is quite an endeavor, however, since the plants seem to grow harvest-size fruits virtually overnight, and there always seems to be at least one baseball bat-like zuke lurking about undetected beneath those gigantic leaves!  At FFF, zukes up to the size of footballs are thought to be fine for eating, while the bigger ones are offered to volunteers to be turned into zucchini bread or other favorites.  Diann Churchill shares her favorite recipe for zucchini bread here:

Zucchini Bread  #1

3 eggs

¾ c oil

1½ c sugar

¼ t lemon extract

½ t vanilla

2 c grated zuke

3 c flour

¾ t salt

½ t cinnamon

¼ t ginger

¼ t nutmeg

1 t baking soda

2 T baking powder

1 c chopped nuts (optional) 

Mix all ingredients.  Pour into 2 greased  loaf pans

Bake 350degrees for 45 min.

If you’d like zucchini bread recipe 2, write us!

Just how much fruit does an average zuke plant produce?  Three to nine pounds of young fruits per season, depending on weather and other variables.  That’s a lot of zukes!  To obtain that much, though, keeping those giants off the vine is important, since Mr. Dan reports they cause the plant to stop production.  Another thing that shuts them down is really hot weather, which causes the blossoms to drop.  Thankfully pests aren’t much of a problem since the plants are sprayed, and critters don’t find them very attractive. And that’s a good thing because here at FFF, we also have a bumper crop of deer.

We thank God for His abundance in providing so many zucchini this year.  For FFF, these are the least expensive of the crops we grow, easy to germinate, and very rewarding to harvest.  Here’s another recipe shared by a colleague for those with many zukes on hand.  Enjoy!

Parmesan-Crusted Zucchini

If you’ve ever chosen to eat deep-fried zucchini sticks instead of French fries or mozzarella sticks because you thought they might be a tiny bit healthy, I feel ya. Yes, it is a vegetable, but once breaded and deep-fried, it crosses the border into artery-clogging land. Mollie Katzen’s recipe for Parmesan-crusted zucchini from The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without is a great alternative—it gives you the crunchy outside and the tender insides of zucchini sticks, but with an extra kick from the Parmesan and crushed garlic. I would put it in a crusty roll with a little tomato sauce as a twist on the decadent eggplant parm sub. 

Ingredients

1            tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2            teaspoons minced or crushed garlic

4            small zucchini and/or summer squash (slender ones, about 6 inches long), halved lengthwise

               Salt, to taste

               Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 to 2   tablespoons fine bread crumbs (optional)

2 to 3   tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

Place a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. After about a minute, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Turn down the heat, add the garlic, and sauté over medium-low heat for just a minute or two, being careful not to let the garlic brown.

Place the zucchini halves facedown in the garlic and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the zucchini are just slightly tender when poked gently with a fork.

Transfer zucchini to a cookie sheet, sprinkle with bread crumbs and Parmesan and place under broiler until slightly brown. Serve.