Monday, August 3, 2009

Zucchini! Zucchini! Zucchini! (or, what to do with all this food)

Sorry to be out of touch. We've been busy with some Rodgers Forge Farm Initiative stuff that we're planning for the fall, so this is our first post in a while.

I guess we've also been busy with the harvest. It seems that every day we go out into our RF yards, we're finding something that needs to be picked and cooked up. That can be an oppressive feeling sometimes -- the notion that you either use these vegetables that you worked so hard to grow, or they rot. (For an interesting story on that topic, see this from The Sun.) A friend of mine once said that her family used to grow tons of beets. She loved the earthy flavor of beets, but she inevitably came to a point in the year when just the thought of eating another beet made her want to cry.

Zucchini is another one of those vegetables that is so prolific that you run out of things to do with them after a while. And you can do damn near anything with them: put them in chocolate cake, make them into muffins, fry them as fritters, put them in soup.... Yeesh. A friend once told me a story about a town, maybe somewhere in Pennsylvania, that has a tradition: On one night of the year, you sneak over to the neighbors' houses and put zucchinis on their doorsteps. The idea is that everyone has so much zucchini that you can't give it away easily.

There are a number of books out there that might help with the glut of vegetables you're getting. First of all, you might want to find ways to store these veggies into the winter months. We gotten two books here recently that cover storing vegetables, but I have to admit that we haven't had time to review them properly. (Maybe you can and let us know what you think.) Both books are distributed by our favorite gardening publisher, Chelsea Green.

How to Store Your Garden Produce: The Key to Self-Sufficiency (Revised Edition), by Piers Warren, lists foods alphabetically and offers a number of options for storing them. I learned about "clamping," or burying some foods, like potatoes, from this book. Regarding zucchinis -- or "courgettes," as this author is British -- the book says that you can blanch and freeze them, or make them into "courgette pickles."

There is also Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation, by the Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivant. (Chelsea Green describes Terre Vivant as "an ecological research and education center located in Mens, Domaine de Raud, a region of southeastern France.") Among the zucchini recipes offered by this book: boil in vinegar with herbs, then pack in oil.

If your harvest is coming in, congratulations -- and good luck.

--Scott Carlson

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