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August 5, 2009 > Pat Kite's Garden: 1001 Zucchini

Pat Kite's Garden: 1001 Zucchini

Have you been given a zucchini lately? The time is near.

Every year a co-worker at Agnews has approached me with a hopeful smile and said "Do you like zucchini?" Not wanting to hurt any gardener's feelings, but a slim zucchini slice is ample, I just replied "hmmm." Co-worker's face would light up. "I'll bring you one tomorrow!"

The next day, on my desk was this enormous green vegetable, similar in size and shape to a baseball bat. Co-worker said, "Let me know if you want more. I have lots this year." Baseball bat zucchini always travelled home and smiled hopefully at me from the refrigerator. After checking out all sorts of Zucchini recipes, I asked my daughter if she wanted a homegrown delicious zucchini. It makes me so happy to share. What she did with it, who knows, it may be actually eaten.

A pound of zucchini has 1,380 units of vitamin A, 870 milligrams potassium and a whole bunch of other good-for-you stuff. I have always presumed all zucchinis look alike. Not so... among choices are White Gila Zucchini, Oestereicher Zucchini, Golden Zucchini, Trompone Rampicante Zucchini, Lebanese Zucchini, Zucchino Nano Bolognese, and Small Tree of Sarzana Zucchini. Try to find Zucchini in a book, and it's not under Z. You find it under Squash, often "Summer Squash."

Squash was grown as food in the Americas for 8,000 years before the first European explorers arrived. The Native American Algonquin word was "askutasquash" which translates as "eaten raw." Among the uses Europeans found for zucchini and other squash was binding the rind to one's forehead to "effectually asswage the running of the eies." Cosmetically, one pounded seed, juice and innards. "It doth beautifie the face, for it taketh away freckles and al spottes..."

In case you don't already have a backyard festooned with zucchini, or a generous friend, you can still try to poke in a few seeds. August is a tad late, but the weather has been strange this year. Zucchini prefer good soil and ample water. Each successful plant will require a minimum of 3 square feet growing space. Male flowers come first, you can pick them and use in soup, as fritters, or stuff with ricotta and bake. Later, the male and female flowers arrive with the possibility of one of those tremendously exciting reality shows, Sex and the Zucchini.

These veggies are tastiest if picked when small. The humongous ones tend to be a bit tough and bitter. When you have oodles, and friends hide as you approach their door, try recipes: Deep-fried Zucchini, Eggplant and Zucchini Parmesan, Marinated Zucchini, Zucchini Bread, Linguine and Zucchini, and even Zucchini Custard Bake. If you really get creative, check out the Internet under Zucchini recipes. There are 16,800,000 recipes awaiting your culinary experimentation.

Or, you could just take a day off and attend the 2009 Hayward Zucchini Festival August 15th and 16th. I'll be there eating a Zucchini cookie.

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