Zucchini is the ‘chameleon’ of squashes
Carolyn Tyler and her daughter, Angie Young, both of Clinton, line up the ingredients for the zucchini relish they made on Sept. 1, 2016.
LORETTA PARK/Standard-Examiner

Zucchini is the 'chameleon' of squashes

Fall may be just around the corner, but zucchini plants are still producing. And zucchini growers are looking for ways to use up the produce without offending their neighbors. 

According to the Utah State Extension Service website, gardeners should pick zucchini when it is 6 to 8 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter for the best quality. Larger zucchini can be shredded or cubed and used in zucchini breads, casseroles, cakes, cookies, muffins, pancakes or relish. 

Zucchini can be eaten raw and unpeeled, but should be washed first, according to the website. Zucchini should be stored unwashed in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator and used within a week after harvesting or purchasing it. 

One medium zucchini has about 35 calories and is a good source of vitamins C, A and some B vitamins, as well as containing small amounts of potassium and manganese, according to the site. 

Even though most people consider zucchini a vegetable, biologically it is a fruit. The zucchini is the “swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower,” according to the website.

But the green squash is popular with many Utahns because of its versatility, said Teresa Hunsaker, family consumer sciences educator with the Utah State University Extension Service in Weber County.

Hunsaker has prepared it many ways, including drying it. 

“For me, it is the go-to plant in the summer,” Hunsaker said. “You can microwave it, steam it, bake it. There’s really not much you have to do to it and it’s fun.” 

Carolyn Tyler and her daughter, Angie Young, both of Clinton bottle zucchini relish every year together.
Courtesy of Angie Young

Carolyn Tyler and her daughter, Angie Young, both of Clinton, get together every year to make zucchini relish for their families. The process doesn’t begin until both women have their Diet Cokes; then it’s time to pull out the cutting boards, knives and the food processor.

First, they partially peel, scoop out seeds and chop zucchini, along with onions. It’s  a two-day process but well worth it, they said, because they rarely have any jars left from the previous season.

Young said she uses zucchini in casseroles, such as baked stuffed zucchini. She also bakes bread, muffins, cookies and cakes with zucchini.

Recently, she baked a zucchini cake that called for a cream cheese frosting.

“It tasted like a spice cake,” Young said.

The longer the zucchini harvest, Young said, the more creative she becomes.

When the family plants a single zucchini plant, said Tyler, it doesn’t produce. So she grows two. And it can be overwhelming by September.

They use the “very large, overgrown ones” for the relish and also for baking and casseroles, Young said. 

“Always make sure you take the seeds out first,” when making relish, Young said, as she scooped out seeds from a zucchini that looked like an oversized football.

Removing the seeds before slicing larger zucchini to use in recipes makes for a perfect finished product, Young said.

Young prefers the smaller ones, no bigger than 12 inches in length, to add to salads or to eat uncooked. At that size, she doesn’t remove the seeds, but chops them up to eat. 

Hunsaker said zucchini really is a “chameleon” in the squash world. It can take on any flavor in most recipes. 

“It is so mellow in flavor, it can take on any flavor,” Hunsaker said. “It has some mineral content so if you want to add additional minerals or increase your veggie intake, you can add it in most recipes.”

The Utah Extension Service’s website offers many recipes for zucchini and other squash.

An "Un-Apple Pie" made with zucchini, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cream of tartar, flour and a pinch of salt is photographed in the Standard-Examiner studio in Ogden on Thursday, September 1, 2016.
BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner

Recipe

Un-Apple Pie

4 to 5 cups zucchini, peeled, deseeded and chopped like an apple
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
Pie pastry for top and bottom of 9-inch pie

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put peeled, chopped and deseeded zucchini in sauce pan. Cover with water. Bring to boil and boil for two minutes. Drain and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl. Add zucchini and stir gently. Pour in prepared pie shell and cover with top crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until brown. 

— Loretta Park 

Recipe

Zucchini Relish

Makes 5 to 6 pints

  • 10 cups finely chopped zucchini
  • 4 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 4 green bell peppers, seeded
  • 4 red bell peppers, seeded
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Wash, peel zucchini, removing stems and blossom ends. Remove seeds and cut squash in large chunks for grinding; run through food grinder. Place in crockery or stainless steel bowl. Stir in salt. Cover with weighted plate and let stand overnight.

The next day, drain and thoroughly rinse vegetables with cold water. 

Mix cornstarch with sugar and seasonings in large pan.  Add to cold vinegar, blending well. Over medium heat, bring to boil, stirring well to prevent lumping.

When syrup is clear, add vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.  

Pour into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headroom. Add lids and rings. 

Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

— Utah State University Extension Service/Courtesy of Putting Food By, Hertzberg, Vaughan, Greene. 

Recipe

Zucchini Bread and Butter Pickles

14 to 16 small zucchini, sliced
8 small onions, sliced
2 medium sweet green peppers, seeded and diced
1/3 cup ball salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon peppercorns
2 cups sugar
3 cups vinegar
Ball pickle crisp (optional)

Combine zucchini, onions and peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt over vegetables; stir. Cover with ice. Let stand 1 ½ hours. Drain and rinse.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add zucchini, onions and peppers, and simmer 10 minutes

Pack hot vegetables into hot jars and ladle hot liquid over hot vegetables, leaving ½ inch headspace.

Add pickle crisp to each jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner. 

— Julie Gray, of Pleasant View

You can reach reporter Loretta Park at lpark@standard.net or at 801-625-4252. Follow her on Twitter at @LorettaParkSE or like her on Facebook.