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Greek Zucchini with Feta

Baked Greek Zucchini with Feta lends a novel accent to summer’s zucchini bounty.

For some, zucchini is a delightful summer squash.

For others, it’s time to cue the theme music from “Jaws.”

Zucchini season is the time of summer when your zucchini-growing co-workers check your car doors to see if they can sneak in a bag of their garden zucchini before you notice.

It grows like a weed, but tastes a whole lot better.

“Because they grow so fast, it is easy to have too many to cook, grill or roast,” notes James Lawson, home gardener and fellow Kenosha News reporter.

“People who grow them usually are overwhelmed by how many they have. That’s when neighbors and friends who like fresh produce come in,” he said.

And yet, zucchini is just exercising its biological imperative to survive, grow and make more zucchini, observes Susan Stiles Saftig, local farmer and owner of Stiles Vegetable Farm and Greenhouse, 11717 Sheridan Road, Pleasant Prairie.

“In the plant world it’s pretty simple,” she said. The plant wants to survive, and sends out flowers to make seed. The good news is that “it will wear itself out,” Saftig said.

“It’s going, going then gone in your yard,” Saftig said.

Not only is zucchini prolific, but it’s sneaky. Many a gardener has checked for ripe zucchini one day and found nothing, come back a few days later and there’s something the size of a green football lurking under the leaves.

“Zucchini fruit like to play hide and seek with you,” agrees Lawson. “It can hide under the large leaves and you can miss it if you do not look carefully under the leaves. Like cucumbers, they grow fast. One day a zucchini might be only three inches long and a day or two later is can be at least twice that size.”

Kate Jerome, Kitchen to Garden consultant and horticulturalist, finds that the best way to prevent “hide and seek” with summer squash is by planting a variety called Gold Rush. “Since it’s bright gold I don’t tend to miss them when picking,” she said.

Commenting on the prolific nature of zucchini Jerome writes that Kenosha gardens seem to favor it. “The hotter and sunnier the better,” she said.

Luckily for the survival of the species, zucchini continues to be cultivated for its tasty and nutritious qualities. Otherwise the poor things would just be relegated to weed status.

Although zucchini is considered a vegetable, it is botanically classified as a fruit.

Recipes for zucchini are nearly as copious as the fruit itself. Because it is bland on its own, zucchini makes a good backdrop for diverse seasonings and can be enjoyed raw, baked, sauteed or shredded and folded into a dessert breads or chocolate cake.

We looked for recipes that call for generous amounts of it (rather than just one zucchini for a pasta sauce) and picked those with unique flavorings or textures.

One such dish, reprinted here with permission from Taste of Home’s online magazine, is Greek Zucchini and Feta Bake. As it deploys a fair portion of zucchini, the dish marries the elements of a frittata with the tang of feta cheese.

When young, zucchini skin is edible and not bitter and contains important nutrients including Vitamins A and C, and minerals potassium and calcium.

The smaller the zucchini, the denser the flesh, Saftig notes. She says she likes to use small ones for grilling and kabobs and medium-size zucchini in a sautee.

“My best recipe other than steaming or baking it is zucchini chocolate cake,” Jerome says, “No one guesses that there is zucchini in it, and the zucchini makes it really moist.”

She says she also likes to run zucchini through a spiralizer to make “zoodles” used in stir frys or as pasta-replacements.

Another use for zucchini that’s a bit off the garden path is oven-baked zucchini chips.

Because zucchini contain a lot of water, the success of crisp zucchini depends on getting as much water out of them as possible before baking.

To make zucchini chips, run the zucchini through a mandoline to create paper thin slices. Next, place on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, cover with more paper towels and press with a heavy cutting board or pan.

Rinse off salt, pat dry and oven-fry to your heart’s content. Pair with your favorite homemade dip and you’ve got a tasty conversation starter at your next picnic potluck.

“You can use zucchini in all kinds of ways,” says Saftig. “And by the time you’re sick of it, the plants are done.”

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