Sweet And Spicy Zucchini Relish – A Classic Recipe Makeover

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Sweet and spicy zucchini relish is a terrific way to use up all of those zucchinis from your garden. It seems like every summer our zucchini plants produce high yields that we can’t eat or give away fast enough. We

The post Sweet And Spicy Zucchini Relish – A Classic Recipe Makeover appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

So Many Zucchini, So Little Time! Tips To Use Up Your Zucchini Harvest

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So Many Zucchini, So Little Time! Tips To Use Up Your Zucchini Harvest

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We’ve all heard jokes about gardeners creeping up to their neighbors’ doorsteps in the dead of the night to “give away” extra zucchini squash. There are few garden plants that produce as prolifically as zucchini. Although there are many creative recipes for fresh zukes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the bounty. But, if you have more than you can eat right now, don’t give away all your extras. There are a bunch of things you can do with the squash so that you can enjoy it throughout the winter.

Picking and Storing Fresh Zucchini

Since zucchini is a summer squash, it has tender, thin skin. Unlike winter squash (including pumpkins and spaghetti squash) with their thick rinds, summer squash doesn’t store well. Even in the fridge, zucchini will keep for 7-10 days at best.

It’s best to pick zukes when they’re about 6-8 inches long. At that size, they’re tender and mild-tasting. As zucchini continues to grow, its flesh becomes stringier and less tasty.

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Don’t bother washing them after picking. Just brush off any dirt and put the zukes in a paper bag, or in a plastic bag that is either perforated or left open. Once bagged, zucchini should be stored in the crisper of your fridge. Keep an eye on it — when zucchini starts becoming soft, it needs to be used up quickly.

Eating Fresh Zucchini

For a long time, all I did with fresh zucchini was throw it into stir-fries and chili. As you can imagine, that didn’t make much of a dent in my harvest. Not wanting to foist any more of my zukes on neighbors and coworkers, I searched online for recipes. If you’re not a foodie, you may be surprised at the incredible variety of zucchini dishes.

  • Sliced in thin, long slices, it can take the place of lasagna noodles.
  • Cut in half and hollowed out a bit, it becomes a “boat” that can be stuffed with pizza fillings or other toppings before roasting.
  • Cut into finger-size strips and coated with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and spices, it becomes “zucchini fries” for a yummy appetizer, snack or side dish.
  • Put through a spiralizer, it becomes high-fiber, low-carb, low-calorie noodles, which are a perfect base for Asian- and Italian-style dishes.
  • Used as an ingredient in all kinds of salads.

With so many different ways to prepare it, it’s easy to incorporate zucchini into meals every day without getting tired of it. Do a little Googling or look on Pinterest for recipes.

Baking With Zucchini

If you have the freezer space, you could whip up cakes, loaves and muffins to stash away for the winter. If you already bake with zucchini, you know that it adds nutrients and texture to baked goods, and helps keep them dense and moist. If you don’t already bake with zucchini, it’s time to give it a go. I’m partial to chocolate chip zucchini loaf, but there are recipes out there to suit every taste.

Freezing Zucchini

Frozen zucchini isn’t at its most attractive once thawed. It’s best used as an additive to things like soups, stews, pasta sauces or chili — or in baked goods.

How you prepare zucchini for the freezer depends on how you intend to use it later. If using for baking, it’s a terrific idea to shred it up and stuff 2 cups into a freezer bag, unless you have a go-to recipe that calls for a different amount. To use it later, thaw it, drain it, drain it again, and pat it dry with a paper towel before you add it to the batter.

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While grated zucchini also works well in soups and stews, sometimes it’s nice to have chunkier pieces in your dish. If that’s the route you’d like to go, you can simply chop your zukes into bite-size pieces, stuff them into a freezer bag, and toss them in the freezer. However, if you blanch them for one minute in boiling water before freezing, the thawed pieces will stay firmer than if they hadn’t been blanched.

Dehydrating Zucchini

So Many Zucchini, So Little Time! Tips To Use Up Your Zucchini Harvest

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If your freezer space is maxed out, dehydrating zucchini is a terrific option. Rachel at growagoodlife.com says that four pounds of fresh, sliced zukes shrink so much during drying that they will fit into a pint-size jar! If you have a dehydrator, it’s super easy to do this: Just clean the zucchini, slice it into ¼-inch rounds, spread the slices on the dehydrator trays, and run the dehydrator as instructed. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can do this in an oven set to 175 degrees, too–just keep a close eye on the zucchini so that it doesn’t burn. It should take about two hours to dehydrate in the oven.

Preserving Zucchini

I remember the first time my mom grew zucchini. It was the ‘80s, and zucchini was absolutely exotic in our part of the world. Mom had no idea what to do with her bounty but heard about “Mock Pineapple.” It turns out that mock pineapple is still a thing. Nutshell version: Peel and cube zucchini; stuff it into jars; cover it with a mix of pineapple juice, sugar, and lemon juice; and process in a hot water bath. The zucchini takes on the flavor of the pineapple juice, but as this contemporary recipe points out, mock pineapple is best used in recipes that call for crushed pineapple, and not simply eaten out of the jar.

If mock pineapple is not your thing (confession: teenaged me refused to eat it), there are all kinds of other ways to can zucchini, including in relishes and salsas, and as pickles. That said, it’s not recommended to can plain zucchini. Because it’s a low-acid vegetable, it would need to be processed in a pressure canner, which is not recommended. Further, canned squash gets quite soft, and has limited uses.

There are so many ways to use and store this very versatile vegetable! What do you do with your extra zucchini? If we missed discussing a way to use it up, please let us know in the comments below.

 

 

Our New Three Sisters Garden. Hugelkultur.

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This season we are trying a slightly new garden method, just to see if it works. This will be our three sisters garden, corn, beans & squash. This method of making a garden bed is known as Hugelkultur .

I will be making a video of this later when the crops are up, but right now this is as far as I have got. I dug a trench first & filled it with garden refuge, cut grass & weeds, heavier tree trimmings on top of that, some old garden edging logs that we have replaced, then the soil on top. I did add some chook manure before adding the soil to help break down the refuse.
When I started mounding the earth, I soon realised that I was not going to have enough soil to cover the highest logs. I did not want to bring more soil from elsewhere or use our compost that we needed for our other garden beds, so I removed two of the top logs.

The two pumpkins are volunteers from last year.

Drowning In Squash? Here’s 18 Clever Ways You Can Use It

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Drowning In Squash? Here's 18 Things You Can Do With It

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Anyone who has ever planned meals around the garden harvest knows there can be too much of a good thing. Eating from the garden is different from buying it at the store. When shopping for food in the supermarket produce aisle, it is easy to get exactly what you need. One bunch of Swiss chard, a sweet pepper or two, and maybe a little box of cherry tomatoes.

Gardens do not grow that way. They are seeds, then developing plants, then there are blossoms, and then wham-o! When a crop is in season, it doesn’t dole out a manageable pound or so a week, giving you time to eat what you have before it delivers more. Instead, it throws a lot at you at once.

Especially if it is summer squash. It seems to explode overnight without warning, going from a few blossoms to a handful of fruits to OH MY GOODNESS. I am pretty sure it has actually happened that I have gone out to the barn and noticed a few ready-to-pick zucchinis as I passed them, spent 15 minutes tending animals, and by the time I walked back past they had all grown to baseball-bat-size.

Even if it does not happen quite that fast, there does seem to be a lot of summer squash and zucchini showing up all at once in the garden. It gets so crazy that friends and coworkers duck for cover when they see gardeners coming, for fear we might be bringing them another armload of squash.

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Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy the bounty of summer squash. Here are my favorite ideas for keeping up with the garden.

1. Raw. Small squashes are perfect in all kind of salads. They can be prepared any way you like. Any shape, any thickness. With or without skins. The pieces are great mixed in with pasta or greens or cherry tomatoes or dressing, or by themselves with dip.

2. Panfried. Fried or chunked, squashes go great in the pan. Use a little oil or butter—I prefer extra virgin olive oil—and spice them up to suit your mood. Use oregano and Italian seasoning for a hint of Mediterranean flavor, or kick it up a notch with a little crushed red peppers or hot sauce. Use Middle Eastern seasonings to side with a nice cut of lamb, or simply salt and pepper in the pan and a sprinkle with parmesan cheese at the table for delightfully simple fare.

Drowning In Squash? Here's 18 Things You Can Do With It

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3. Breaded. Traditional breading—dip in egg coating and then a flour mixture—is tasty, or you can use tempura batter if you are feeling adventurous. Remember that zucchini can soak up a ton of flavor, so be generous with the flour seasonings.

4. Casseroles and baked dishes. Squash can be sliced thin the long way and used between layers of lasagna and shepherd’s pie, cut up and added to your family’s favorite meat-and-tomato recipes, or mixed into a hot vegetable and rice dish.

5. Ratatouille. This one could really be broadened to “stews,” but I so love this unique thick vegetable stew that I have to give it its own section. But if ratatouille is not quite your thing, then go ahead and mix squashes in with other ingredients for whatever kind of stew you like best. Whether all-vegetable or with meat, summer squashes make an excellent addition to stews.

6. Soups. Of course. Everything goes in soup. Meat, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, stock—and squash.

7. Stir fry and fried rice. Even though these are two completely different dishes, I lump them together here because the act of throwing in whatever is on hand to create one-of-a-kind feasts is the same with both of them. Whether in a pan of Asian greens and vegetables, or rice and soy sauce and meat, summer squashes go nicely.

8. Skillet meals. As with Asian-inspired dishes, skillet meals often turn into a unique composition of food on hand. A few potatoes, leftover chunks of pork chops or steak or breakfast sausages, a few handfuls of cut up zucchini, and bam. Supper in a skillet.

9. Eggs. Zucchini and summer squash make a lovely addition to all things egg. If you live on a homestead and have almost as many eggs as you have vegetables, then you can rejoice that they pair so nicely. A few slices of panfried squash on an egg and cheese sandwich, or a little squash cut up or grated into scrambled eggs or omelets, or a mouthwatering potato and squash frittata—yes, please!

10. Pizza topping. Since I discovered this use for zucchini, I never have any left in the freezer by springtime. Fresh or frozen, zucchini is amazing on pizzas! The secret? Panfry it first.  Just a few minutes in a little hot oil with salt and pepper brings out the juices and bakes into a pizza that will knock your socks off.

11. Baked. Once squash gets a little larger, consider baking it. Slice it the long way, scoop out the seeds, cover it with red sauce—I use plenty of Italian seasoning and a dollop of pesto in mine—and layer some cheeses on top. Mozzarella and parmesan work wonderfully. For a change of pace, add some Kalamata olives and feta. Use a baking dish or sheet pan to catch the drippings and bake until tender.

12. Grilled. Slice it the long way and brush it with olive oil and lay the slices right on the grate for a quick sear, or cut it up and in chunks and add to a grill basket of anything from cherry tomatoes to snow peas to eggplant to broccoli. If you’ve got it, grill it!

Image source: Wikimedia

Image source: Wikimedia

13. Bread. Everyone loves the rich texture and spicy aroma of fresh-baked zucchini bread. While you are at it, bake a few extra loaves for the freezer to enjoy warmed up with a little whipped cream topping on a cold winter night. But wait! Grated zucchini can be used in yeast bread recipes, as well. Just add it in anytime during the mixing process, and it bakes up beautifully.

14. Muffins. As with bread, grated zucchini turns out a delightful muffin, as well. Here are a few hints about muffins: you can usually substitute grated zucchini for carrots in a muffin recipe. Not only that, but muffin and quick bread recipes are often interchangeable. To convert a muffin recipe to bread, bake it at a lower temperature for a longer time.

15. Cookies. In a season of desperate overabundance of squash several years ago, I did an online search and found several excellent zucchini cookie recipes.

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They are so good even picky eaters gobble them up! I use zucchini because that is what I best like to grow, but other kinds of summer squash would also work great. Like other baked sweets, cookies can be tucked into the freezer for later.

16. Cake. Zucchini and yellow squash are perfect grated into cakes. Don’t have a recipe? Just use a carrot cake recipe. You can tweak the spices a little by adding cinnamon, but you do not have to. Or, for a drop-dead divine treat, try a chocolate zucchini cake. The richness swallows up the texture and flavor of squash, leaving just pure chocolate heaven.

17. Mock apples. Yes, you read that right. If all else fails and your best intentions to pick them small do not happen and you are left with a collection of big old squashes, it is still not too late. Peel and core and slice up in the size of apple slices, add the sugars and spices and thickeners you would use for apple dessert, bake it in a crisp or a crust, and see what happens.

18. Preserving. You will want plenty of summer squash on hand to enjoy year-round. Small summer squashes make great pickles, can easily dehydrate into yummy chips, and are a snap to blanch and freeze for later use.

Once you try these ideas for using up summer squash and zucchinis, you will never have too many. So go ahead, plant all the squash you want. And don’t worry about people avoiding you during squash season—just share a few of your yummy results with them, and they’ll be lining up for your bounty.

What squash tips would you add? What creative recipes do you use? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Simplest Way To Keep Squash (And Zucchini) From Taking Over The Garden

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The Simplest Way To Keep Squash (And Zucchini) From Taking Over The Garden

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One of my biggest concerns each year when I am dedicating space in my garden is where to put the vine plants (such as summer squash and zucchini). I don’t grow anything in super-huge amounts, as I don’t have an enormous space with which to work. My garden inventory is usually something like:

  • a half dozen tomato plants
  • twice as many assorted pepper plants
  • a half dozen beans
  • 3-4 kale plants
  • some lettuce
  • around 4 zucchini and summer squash plants

These last ones are the ones I generally enjoy the most, for their versatility in my summer meal plans. If I could, I would grow these in larger quantities. The trouble I run into is that the vine-based plants seem to become so invasive overnight!

The last thing I want to do is to waste the hard work I put in nurturing my other plants by allowing for my zucchini and summer squash to roam as they will. Here is how I made my garden more vine-friendly without having to limit the space available to each plant.

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One day while attempting to remove some fencing from behind my shed, I had a stroke of genius. Here I was fighting with some random vine that had come out of nowhere and had overwhelmed the fencing I had set against the shed the previous year. Without the fencing, the vine would have a very difficult time securing adequate footing on the bare shed wall. So why couldn’t my vine-based plants use the same method in my garden?

All I needed to do was design something that would be sturdy enough to support the weight of the plants and would have enough surface area to allow the plants to grow and their fruits to fully develop. Here is how I did it.

Materials I used:

  • a wood pallet
  • two pieces of scrap wood
  • metal fencing material
  • wire cutters
  • staple gun
  • cordless drill
  • 2 ½-inch wood screws
The Simplest Way To Keep Squash (And Zucchini) From Taking Over The Garden

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Many times I will repurpose the wooden slats of a pallet and am left with just the square outline of the pallet and maybe one or two slats that I don’t dare remove due to their perceived damaged.  In the past I took these frames and added them to the bonfire pile, but seeing a potential use, I rescued several of them from their potentially fiery demise.

The same fencing that I had to wrestle from the vines behind my shed became the very material I used to help my squash plants climb without fear. All I did was measure the size of the pallet and cut the metal fencing down to size. I found it a little helpful to have the fencing be a little long so it could stretch over the sides of the pallet. The wire cutters made this a quick process.

After that, I took the staple gun and used it to secure the fencing material to the frame of the pallet. Since I cut the fencing a little longer than I needed, it is easier to secure it to the frame since there was very little material on the face of the pallet for me to attach it to.

The next step was to attach two pieces of wood to the underside of the pallet frame in order to help it stand up. I used some scrap 2×2 wood that I happened to have laying around. I cut each piece so that it measured roughly 4 feet in length. I secured each piece as close to the top of the pallet as I could, using a couple of 2 ½-inch wood screws.

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I didn’t tighten the screws all the way at first, because I wasn’t sure exactly what angle I wanted the pallet to set at. This way I could adjust the legs of each pallet before finalizing them. I eventually decided to have the pallets sit at just under a rough 45-degree angle so that the plants had a good platform to grow and it wasn’t too steep for the fruit to mature.

I positioned the pallet as close to the zucchini as I could without crowding the plants. It took a little coaxing, but I was soon able to train the plants to grow up the pallet as opposed to around it. Soon enough, I had free space in my garden that wasn’t being overrun by the vines of these two plants.

One of the unintended results of installing this pallet platform in my garden was that I now also had a unique space where I had access to partial shade during the day. I used this area to plant additional lettuce in the hotter portion of the summer when my other crop was showing signs of damage due to the intense sun and heat.

All and all, this was a fun project that cost me absolutely nothing extra out of pocket. I happened to have all the needed materials on hand, and it only took me about an hour of time to figure out what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to look.

If I were to build another one of these (which I will be doing shortly), I would be slightly more careful in the edges I left behind on the fencing I attached to the pallet. Some of the remaining edges were sharper than I had expected, and I had to do some maintenance to remove them and ensure the safety of both myself and my family.

The results of this project were exactly what I wanted them to be. Once I have a few minutes of free time, I am going to build three more of these for this year’s garden so that I can have one dedicated for each of my vine plants. If your goal as a potential homesteader is to use what you have and to make the most out of your space, you should consider something like this to get the most out of what you have!

How do you keep your vine plants from taking over the garden? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Easiest Vegetable to Grow

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zucchiniEvery gardener knows that some vegetables are easier to grow than others. Pickier plants need a lot of care and coaxing in order to grow and mature properly. Other plants simply need to be planted in the ground, watered when needed, and then, the next thing you know, you have ripe vegetables ready to harvest and eat.

But what’s the easiest vegetable to grow? There must be one that tops the list; one that produces a ton of vegetables without taking up a lot of your time. It’s easy to name the top five of these, but harder to come up with just one plant. Out of all of the vegetables that grow in the United States, zucchini should be at the top of the list.

Unlike some vegetables, for example beans and tomatoes, that need to shored up to stakes, poles or cages for support, zucchini is quite happy to stay on the ground. It’s a very low-maintenance vegetable. Here are some other characteristics that put zucchini at the top of the list:

– Location: Zucchini likes full sun, but will also grow well in partial shade. This gives you more options when planting this vegetable, as it isn’t overly picky. This vegetable also prefers alkaline soil that falls between 6 and 7 on the pH scale, and likes soil that drains fairly well. With that said, it will grow well in many different conditions, even those that don’t quite fit the profile.

– Watering:  This vegetable prefers a lot of water, so make sure that the soil around it is kept moist. This is really the only thing that zucchini plants are really picky about. If they don’t receive any water, they won’t grow properly. The leaves and buds can also begin to wilt. If this happens, it’s just a sign that your plants need more water.

– Preventing harmful conditions: Zucchini is prone to wilt and mildew, but that doesn’t make it any harder to grow – it just means that when you water your plants, make sure that the water goes directly into the soil underneath the plant. Any droplets that remain on the leaves and stem of your zucchini will only welcome mold and mildew. You don’t want this, so be careful about where the water ends up.

– Fertilizer: If you plan on using chemical fertilizers, keep in mind that your zucchini plants only need one dose. Plant your seedlings (or seeds, depending on how you plan your garden and what climate you’re in) and then fertilize them. Water your plants soon after, and then sit back and watch your zucchini grow.

– Harvesting: As soon as your zucchini are around 4 inches long, they need to be harvested. The downside to this (if you’re worried about zucchini overload) is that as soon as this happens, the plants will seemingly explode and you’ll end up with a ton of zucchini. However, if you love this vegetable and plan on using every single one that you grow, then this is a good thing.

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Pic by WallyHartshorn