On Tuesday, sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Excess produce leads to holiday for sharing vegetable

With the abundance of garden produce over the summer months, Tuesday has been dubbed national Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night, a holiday started by Pennsylvanian Tom Roy as a positive way to share surplus zucchini from gardens.

"Everyone who has grown zucchini knows that it can be difficult to keep up with the yield. The gourds grow quickly if not picked, and they do not freeze or can well," said Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension. "Since you can only bake so many loaves of zucchini bread, many folks find giving their zucchini to neighbors is a great solution. To celebrate the holiday, you are to quietly sneak up to your neighbor's porch, and leave them a pile of homegrown zucchini."

Summer Squash

Zucchini is a summer squash, which comes in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Most summer squash have similar flavor profiles and can be used interchangeably in recipes.

There are many varieties, including Yellow squash: either straight or crook-necked; and Scallop varieties: which include the favorite Patty-Pan type, Peter Pan, Scallopini, Sunburst, and other summer squash that are disc-shaped with scalloped edges. They look like tiny flying saucers.

Chayote is a light green pear-shaped summer squash with furrowed skin.

Then there is zucchini, which has varieties that are medium to dark green, looking much like a cucumber in its size, shape, and color. Some are even golden.

"Zucchini are generally harvested when six to eight inches long and about 2 inches in diameter when they are most flavorful," Duitsman said.

Summer squash differs from winter squash, which has hard skins and includes: pumpkin, acorn, buttercup, and banana squash. Unlike winter squash, summer squash should be harvested while the gourd is still tender, ideally no bigger than 8-10 inches in length.

Any over 12 inches will likely be too hard and should be recycled. Patty-pan squash should be harvested when about 3 to 4 inches in diameter.

The skin of the summer squash is thin and easily damaged, and should be handled with care.

Nutritional Value

One cup of raw sliced zucchini contains 16 calories; 1.31 grams of protein; 3.27 grams of carbohydrates; and 1.36 grams of dietary fiber.

"Summer squash contains vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber, and carotenoids, which are plant elements known as phytonutrients, which have been shown to promote health and help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer," Duitsman said.

Summer squash is 95 percent water and contains only about 20 calories per cup.

Summer squash has a very mild, delicate flavor that absorbs other flavors it is cooked with. It is very versatile for use in savory dishes by boiling, frying, grilling, sauteing or in stir-fry recipes.

For a quick dish, try tossing it with extra virgin olive oil and roasting in the oven at 425F for 10 to 15 minutes.

Use summer squash in dishes with tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Dill, parsley, and other mild spices also mix well with summer squash.

Summer squash can also be used for baking bread and muffins, used raw sliced in salads, or as crudite with hummus or a favorite dip.

Growing and Storing

Squash is a great choice for the beginning gardener because it is easy to grow and prolific. If you have limited space, squash plants can be grown in large containers.

During hot weather, the fruit is usually ready to pick four to eight days after flowering.

The plants should be checked every one to two days to ensure the squash do not grow too big, overmature, and become tough. Just one plant may provide plenty to share with your neighbor.

Store summer squash unwashed in the refrigerator crisper in a plastic bag left open or with a few holes poked in it for airflow.

"If the squash is fresh, it will keep like this for about one week," Duitsman said.

Before preparation, wash squash well by scrubbing gently with a soft vegetable brush under running cold water. Trim the ends, then slice, dice, or shred. There is no need to remove the skin unless the squash is oversized and tough.

Skillet Zucchini with Chopped Tomatoes Recipe

Preparation Time: 10 minutes; Number of Servings: 4; Cups of Fruits and Vegetables Per Person: 1

Ingredients:

• One tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

• Four small-medium (6-7 inch) zucchini, thinly sliced

• Two medium tomatoes, chopped (or 16 oz. diced, canned tomatoes)

• 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

Directions: In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil and garlic over medium heat until garlic is fragrant and begins to brown. Add zucchini and cook for two minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for three to five minutes or until zucchini is tender-crisp. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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