The Half-Assed Homesteader

When the garden gives too much zucchini… September 15, 2011

Filed under: baking,Cooking,Preserving — halfasshomesteader @ 5:19 pm

…you make zucchini bread.  And attempt and fail (twice) to make zucchini chips.  And make the zucchini ricotta spread until all your friends are sick of it.  AND YET THERE IS MORE ZUCCHINI.

I’ve grown zucchini every year I’ve ever had a garden.  That’s the majority of the last thirteen years or something like that.  So you’d think I’d know by now how many plants will produce too much zucchini for my family to eat.  Do you know how many plants that is?  It’s one.  One plant will just about do us.  Maybe two if we want zucchini coming out of our ears.  So how many zucchini plants do you think I planted this year?

Five.  Yes, that’s right.  Five zucchini plants.

See, I have a tiny gardener who likes to help me.  She especially likes to sow seeds.  And even though I have never had a zucchini seed fail to sprout, I still have this method instilled in me, from my days of professional propagation, of oversowing.  No good propagator would ever sow less than three seeds. And I feel like I have to pass this down to my daughter.  This is valuable gardening information!  This is the sort of information that gets passed from generation to generation in a gardening family!  So, we planted two or three seeds in each spot, I’m not sure how many, but eventually we ended up with five absolutely enormous zucchini plants, and I just didn’t have the heart to thin them.  I know that goes against all professionalism, thus making my earlier insistance on oversowing seem ridiculous, but…that’s me.  Half-assed overachiever.  Even I don’t understand my own brain.

So that’s how I ended up harvesting thirteen pounds of zucchini in one day a few weeks ago.  They sat on my counter and I stared at them until one day I decided it was zucchini day.  First up, I read this post about zucchini chips, and I thought that sounded fantastic.  But I don’t have a dehydrator.  That’s okay, I thought.  I’ll just slice them up with a mandolin and put them on various flat surfaces into the oven and the lowest temp and see what happens.  These beautiful zucchinis went in looking like this:

Unfortunately, they came out looking like this:

We had to use the oven later that night and I thought I’d just take them out for a few hours then put them back in, but when I took them out it was obvious immediately that they were an abysmal failure.  I didn’t use anything to prevent them from sticking, and so….they stuck.  I mean, really really stuck.  On the upside, they immediately disintegrated when immersed in hot water so they did not turn into a cleaning debacle.

I actually tried the zucchini chips again a week later, and once again they were totally unsuccessful.  I actually put them on aluminum foil, but they still stuck.  Interestingly, I didn’t use a mandolin this time, and I used two different size.  The larger slices, which were also mostly thinner, just shrank down and died.  But the smaller and thicker slices actually kind of started to work, but there were so few of them that I just ate them out of the oven.  They were delightful and I still think I might give this a third try if I am feeling ambitious someday soon, since my garden is still producing an abundance of zucchini.

But anyway.  Back to the zucchini bread.  I thought I’d make six loaves at once and freeze five of them in my completely awesome chest freezer.  (You may remember some of this debacle from Facebook.)  I dropped my kid off at school and stopped at the store on the way home to get some dish soap, and while I was there I picked up ingredients, and was feeling all smug that for once I remembered to do something like that in advance.  I got home, was actually knee deep in ingredient assembling when I realized that I did not have a smidge of brown sugar.  So out I ran to the store, with my table covered in half-assembled zucchini bread ingredients.  I came back home, turned on Radiolab, my eternal homemaking partner, and set up this wonderful streamlined system of zucchini bread production.  After the third one I kind of thought…Hm.  Did I leave something out of that one? But I had no idea what it would have been, so I continued.  At the end I was astonished and proud to have six lovely zucchini breads to put into the oven.  An hour later I pulled out this:

But also this:

For comparison:

One of these things is not like the other.

I obviously left out either the baking soda or baking powder of the sad one.  But that’s okay!  Five out of six is not bad, for me, frankly. One of them collapsed coming out of the loaf pan too, but it still tasted delicious.  The other ones all went into the freezer so that I will have ready to bring summery desserts for mid-winter dinners.  Overall, this was a successful project!  I mean, I know making zucchini bread is not a particularly demanding venture, but I grew something, I made something with it, and I saved it for later, and I think that is cool.

I’m still planning on making a zucchini quiche to freeze for the winter also, and I might do some zucchini pickles too.  I mean, this zucchini just keeps going!  And then, of course, I somehow planted four acorn squash plants too, so will I be failing at making acorn squash chips in a couple months?  We’ll see…

*and in case you missed it on Facebook, after I made a colossal mess making the zucchini bread, I realized I had forgotten to buy dish soap the first two times I’d gone to the store and I had to go to the store AGAIN for dish soap.

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3 Responses to “When the garden gives too much zucchini…”

  1. Sue Says:

    I’m giggling! I too decided we needed more zucchini and planted 5 plants, plus 6 patty pan squash plants! I’ve shredded and dried many, many pounds and it worked well. Last year my zucchini chips looked exactly like yours. I had to hose down the dehydrator trays to get the chips off! This year I discovered that using the thickest slicer thingy on my mandoline works best. I soaked the slices for 10 minutes in a solution of 1 part soy sauce to 2 parts water. Drained them off a bit and laid them out on the trays. After I noticed a skin forming on the slices (a few hours), I turned them all over and continued drying until they were very crispy. They came off the trays without much trouble at all. A few stuck, but it was a very small percentage. A few weeks later and they are still nice and crispy. A light sprinkle of salt while they’re still warm made them even better!

    • Thanks for the tips! I was already thinking I’ll try thicker ones next time but I worried they’d never fully dry and wouldn’t get crispy like I was hoping. I’ll definitely try some next week. I like your soy sauce idea too! I wonder if adding a little sesame oil would be going overboard…

  2. Sue Says:

    Sesame oil might work, but the oil might keep the moisture in. If you like the taste of sesame, why not try a tray or two with seeds. That might work too. Think of what type of seasonings you might like the taste of and play with those on the zucchini chips. I got the idea of soy sauce from a new dehydrating book I got this year. Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook has all kinds of very interesting ideas and recipes on how to use dried foods too. I have a Borner mandoline and even on the thickest slicer the chips come out very crispy.


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