Zucchini: Size Doesn’t Matter

Botanically, zucchini is an immature fruit and is the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower

Hannah and James Huang grow fruit and vegetables on five acres, they have gardens in Kapa’a and Kilauea.

What’s growing: Arugula, Asian greens, apple bananas, beets, broccoli raab (Chinese broccoli), carrots, coconuts, corn, cucumber, herbs, guava, lemon, lettuce, papaya, pomelo, tomatoes, zucchini

ZUCCHINI

Zucchini is in the gourd family and known as a summer squash. The British call it marrow, the French say courgette, and in the

United States we use the Italian name zucchini. Locally grown zucchini are a special treat because it is a crop that is difficult to grow on Kaua’i.

Season: Kaua’i’s growing season enables the Huangs to grow the typically prolific summer squash year-round.

What to look for: Choose firm zucchini with brightly colored skin, free from discoloration. When small, the color is dark green, but it may develop white stripes as it matures. Avoid those with soft indentations.

Hannah and James Huang at their farm in Kapa‘a. Daniel Lane photos

Storage: Zucchini should be stored no longer than three days. They are prone to chilling damage, which shows as sunken pits in the surface of the fruit, especially when brought up to room temperature after cool storage.

Tip: Size is not always an indication of maturity. An overly mature summer squash has tough skin, hard seeds and dry flesh, which makes it well-suited for stuffing and baking. Shred large zucchini and store in freezer.

Preparation: Zucchini are harvested when immature and are typically lightly cooked. They are excellent tossed in olive oil then grilled. They can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, stuffed and baked, barbecued, deep-fried or incorporated into other recipes such as soufflés. Zucchini also can be eaten raw, sliced or shredded in a cold salad.

Health benefits: According to The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood, summer squash supports the stomach, spleen, large intestine and liver. It is a yin tonic that treats hot conditions, as it is 95 percent water. Summer squash is easy to digest and contains anticancer properties.

Varieties of squash typically called ‘zucchini’ were developed in Italy. Daniel Lane photos

Kaua’i Glory Farms’ produce can be found at: Island School; Farmers Markets: Koloa (Mondays at noon), Kukui Grove (Mondays at 3 p.m.), Waipa (Tuesdays at 2 p.m.), Kapa’a (Wednesdays at 3 p.m.), Kilauea (Thursdays at 4:30 p.m.), Kaua’i Community College (Saturdays at 10 a.m.), Hanalei (Saturdays at 9:30); Restaurants: Pacific Island Bistro, #1 BBQ; Distribution: Esaki’s Produce.

ZUCCHINI GRATIN

I love this recipe from Julia Child because it’s elegant comfort food. Sautéed zucchini is tossed with gooey cheese and a creamy white sauce before it’s topped with crunchy bread crumbs and popped into the oven. One bite of this and you’ll love it too!

* 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, shredded on large hole of cheese grater
* zucchini-squeezing juices
* 1 onion, shredded on large hole of cheese grater
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus salt, to taste
* 2 to 4 tablespoons melted butter
* 3 tablespoons flour
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk and/or heavy cream
* approximately 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
* 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh white bread crumbs
* freshly ground pepper, to taste

The Huangs always have zucchini at the farmers market

Toss the zucchini with salt; let steep 20 minutes. Squeeze zucchini in your hands to extract juice. Warm juice over low heat.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan over moderate heat; add zucchini and onions and saute until soft. Add remaining tablespoon butter and stir in flour. Cook, stirring, for two minutes, and remove pan from heat. Mix in the hot zucchini juices, blending thoroughly with the vegetables and flour, and return to moderate heat.

Bring to a simmer, thinning it out with spoonfuls of milk and/or cream mixture should be fairly stiff but not thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in 1/3 cup cheese.

Butter a shallow 4-cup baking dish and turn the zucchini into it. Spread with a mixture of the remaining cheese and bread crumbs, and dribble on a half tablespoon of butter.

Bake at 425 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

KauaianFresh.com

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