Now is the time of year when you ask your neighbor, “Would you like some zucchini?” And they politely reply, “I already have too many, but thanks for the offer!”
The North County climate might have something to do with this proliferation of all vegetables in the Cucurbita family.
Our moist, slightly cloudy “May Gray” weather is actually helpful since the plants grow slowly and don’t produce tiny fruit but attain the perfect size of 4-5 inches.
HOW TO GROW THE PERFECT SUMMER SQUASH
Yellow squash, patty pan squash and a wide variety of zucchini all need a large amount of space to grow. Their wonderfully wide leaves will extend to a circumference of at least 2 feet, so a typical 4-by-6-foot raised bed could only house three mature plants.
And the relative of the summer squash, the winter squash (acorn, delicata, butternut) can be planted at the same time but will require at least one or more months to bear fruit.
Remember, the summer squash will grow with leaves that can be kept in check, but the winter squash vines and leaves can extend to over 8 feet.
The key to attaining the most vegetable production for your space comes from interplanting. According to fellow garden writer Katherine Whiteside, “Plant snow peas in very early spring per packet instructions. When peas fade (about the same time lettuce bolts), plant three hills of squash (yellow, zucchini, winter, delicata, acorn or pumpkin). Allow vines to overrun the bed onto paths as summer progresses.”
Katherine’s book, “The Way We Garden Now,” is still available online and holds wonderfully detailed and complete details for spring, summer and fall vegetable garden plans.
In the Carlsbad Senior Center Garden, we planted three rows of lettuce in March, allowing them to grow until late May. Just before the end of May, we planned ahead for a summer crop and started three hills of squash (from 3-inch seedings) in between the rows of lettuce.
Just as the squash was about to be planted, we pulled all the lettuce, which was finished producing.
The zucchini began leafing out and had plenty of room to spread with the lettuce out of the way.
Be sure to fertilize your summer squash as you transplant into hills, and water daily.
FAVORITE SUMMER VEGETARIAN RECIPES
Although I am not vegetarian, I love exploring new cookbooks and have found wonderful selections in all of the Mollie Katzen cookbooks, “The Moosewood Cookbook” and “Still Life with Menu Cookbook.”
I adapted one of the recipes for Zucchini Patties from Deborah Madison’s “Greens Cookbook.” Although the recipe called for flour, I had run out so I turned to Bisquick Pancake Mix instead.
JANO’S ZUCCHINI FRITTERS
— 2 c. Bisquick Baking Mix
— 2 c. grated zucchini (use hand grater or food processor)
— 2 eggs
— 1 c. cheddar cheese
— Olive oil, salt and pepper
In a large bowl, combine Bisquick and zucchini. Be sure to drain zucchini on a paper towel to remove moisture.
Add eggs and stir to moisten. Add cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Use your hands to shape into 4-inch patties. If the mixture feels too wet, add more baking mix.
Heat large frying pan (cast iron works best). Add ¼-inch olive oil to pan, heat until almost smoking. Add shaped patties to pan, and fry until golden brown.
Although these fritters could be a meal in themselves, they could be served with other grilled vegetables or grilled chicken. To grill any large vegetable, such as squash, onions or eggplant, cut into long slices, marinate in oil and spread on aluminum foil or vegetable rack.
SEND US YOUR FAVORITE VEGETABLE RECIPES
We welcome you to send us your favorite summer vegetable recipes, and we will find room for them in future columns. Send them to [email protected] Bon appetit!
Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and Horticulturist and currently teaches vegetable gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center Garden. Contact her at [email protected].