Prairie Fare: Do you have zucchini coming out of your ears?
A man went to a doctor. He had a carrot in each nostril and a zucchini in each ear.
“I know what your issue is,” the doctor said. “You aren’t eating right.”
One of my kids told me that joke several years ago.
I am feeling like the man in the joke.
I have zucchini coming out of my ears, but not literally. Our garden is becoming a zucchini factory, and we have more than what we can use.
Poor zucchini. It often is the punchline of jokes at harvest time. You are advised to keep your doors locked and monitor your front porch step, or you might be the recipient of a pile of zucchini.
I decided to make Parmesan-roasted zucchini spears the other night. I drizzled zucchini slices with olive oil and sprinkled them with fresh Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning. We ate the entire batch.
“How many zucchini did you use?” my husband asked.
“That was one zucchini,” I replied.
I think I heard a heavy sigh.
The next day, I prepared zucchini slices marinated briefly in Italian dressing and grilled in a perforated grill pan. I also made a super-easy zucchini chocolate cake, which I am including as this week’s recipe.
“How many zucchini did you use?” my husband asked again.
“One,” I replied.
I definitely heard a heavy sigh this time.
Zucchini is a versatile and prolific summer squash that can be used in breads, cakes, muffins, main dishes and side dishes. It can help stretch your budget as a result. Its high water content means that it is low in calories.
Zucchini provides vitamins A, C and K, along with potassium and other minerals. One cup of cooked zucchini has just 17 calories.
Maybe I will make zucchini boats filled with hot dish, make zucchini noodles (zoodles) or add some grated zucchini to a meatloaf.
Zucchini blossoms are edible. Removing the blossoms means your plant cannot produce as many zucchini. If you allow the plant to produce a giant zucchini, you also may reduce the plant’s productivity.
I have two bush-type zucchini plants, which stay in their confined areas fairly well. Other varieties grow long vines that can overtake your garden.
Although my zucchini plants are behaving themselves and not spreading everywhere, I should have planted one plant.
Be sure to monitor your garden frequently because these “fruits of the plant” grow quickly.
If you miss harvesting a zucchini, you may find a giant “leg-sized” zucchini within a few days. Large zucchini have big seeds, harder skin and a spongy, fibrous cavity.
Small zucchini are very tender. In fact, try to harvest them when they are fairly small (2 to 3 inches in diameter). They grow a couple of inches a day, according to some sources.
Personally, I think they are underestimating the rate of growth.
You can freeze zucchini, but keep in mind that the freezing process will cause the plant cells to release their liquid. Be sure to drain the excess liquid thoroughly or you could affect your final product.
To freeze, rinse zucchini, then grate or slice it with or without the skin. Blanch (scald) in boiling water for one minute if grated or three minutes if sliced; allow to dry, then package in freezer containers. Label with contents and date.
Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/fieldtofork to gather more recipes and ways to use and preserve zucchini and a range of summertime produce.
As promised, here’s a very easy dessert recipe using a chocolate cake mix. I adapted it from one I found online.
I don’t always trust online recipes without trying them first, so I bought the least expensive cake mix in the grocery store in case this didn’t work. I served it on a fancy serving plate sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. My family gave it a two thumbs up rating. It is lower in calories and fat than a typical chocolate cake.
Super-simple Zucchini Chocolate Cake
2 Tbsp. water
2 c. grated zucchini, packed in cup
1 chocolate cake mix (about 16 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan, or use two loaf pans. Mix eggs, water and grated zucchini in a bowl or with a mixer. Add dry chocolate cake mix (do not add oil or additional water). Mix well. Place in a Bundt pan or divide between two loaf pans. Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t overbake or it will be dry. Allow to cool. Remove from pan, and sprinkle powdered sugar over the top using a flour sifter, slice and serve.
Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 130 calories, 5 grams (g) fat, 3 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 240 milligrams sodium.
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson.
Online: For more Prairie Fare columns: www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/columns/prairie-fare/