Thursday 28 July 2011

Giant Zucchini

I have, sitting on my counter right now, a zucchini that is the same approximate size and shape as the Graff Zeppelin.  I got it yesterday, at Alderlea Farm, when I went to pick up my CSA box.  There was a bin of them there, with a sign saying “Help Yourself.”  I did.

As I was carrying my vegetables to the car, a woman about my age caught sight of the giant zucchini and asked “What on earth would you DO with one of those?!”  I was surprised. I can’t imagine not knowing how to cook large zucchini. 

Surely everyone who has ever had a home vegetable garden, or known someone who has a home vegetable garden has, cooked a large zucchini at one time or another.  In the cool, grey days of spring, when we want to see something—anything—growing in our gardens, many of us plant far more zucchini than we will ever need.  The resulting bounty spurs us to ever greater heights of kitchen creativity.  Everyone I know has at least one signature zucchini recipe, and most home cooks are happy to share them.

Our annual bounty of zucchini brings with it some health benefits.  As an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C, a very good source of beta-carotene, and a good source of zinc, zucchini provides us with a great combination of conventional antioxidant nutrients. It also contains an unusual amount of lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are especially helpful in antioxidant protection of the eye, including protection against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.[1]

Zucchini not only provides a very good amount of dietary fiber (a mainstay of dietary protection from Type 2 Diabetes) at 2.5 grams per cup, but it also provides polysaccharide fibers like pectin that have special benefits for blood sugar regulation.[2]

Because I like its taste of zucchini and enjoy its health benefits, I buy it year round but summer zucchini—fresh from the garden or from a local farm—is zucchini at its best.  It has a fresher flavour and is richer in nutrients than zucchini that has been transported for days and then kept in cold storage. 

I always serve zucchini with the skin on.  Many of the nutrients in a summer squash are in the skin itself.

 In the hope and belief that there are more giant zucchini in my future this summer, I’ve decided not to make pickles or relish from the one I have now.  I’m going to slice a couple of rounds off of it, scoop out the seeds, and stuff them like I would do bell peppers.  They’ll be our supper tonight.  The rest of the zucchini will get seeded, grated and bagged in one cup portions.  I’ll set some aside for tomorrow’s breakfast muffins and then freeze the rest.  Shredded zucchini is the home baker’s secret to moist baked goods.  I’ll be glad to have it come winter.

I’ll be sharing my zucchini muffin recipe in tomorrow’s blog.  Do you have a favourite zucchini recipe?  A funny zucchini story?  I’d love to hear them.

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