This is the time of year when gardeners are usually fully engaged in making use of the prodigious quantities of zucchini and squash that are magically appearing and reappearing in their gardens day after day. Jokes and stories abound regaling the creative ways gardeners make use of the bounty and dispense of the excess.
Apocryphal tales of questionable authenticity exist of food pantries and homeless shelters slamming their doors on yet more fresh zucchini donations as the fertile plants create a veritable avalanche of produce.
This year, not so much.
Local gardener Sue Johnson said her squash are not doing so well this year, despite Johnson’s gardening experience and the fact she’s usually good with squash.
Betty Wright of the Mountain View Garden Club said she has a small garden this year, but her squash have been disappointing.
Sally Ferrell in Wilkes County said, “My plants look fine but not many fruits. I’m wondering if pollinators are lacking. I rarely see a bee.”
Ferrell added that someone remarked to her on the lack of butterflies. That person has butterfly bushes but no butterflies.
Surry County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Joanna Radford, hasn’t heard of any issues with squash this year.
“I have not seen, and I haven’t heard about, any new pollinator issues,” said Radford. “But you know, pollinators don’t come out in the rain. They can’t fly very well in it.”
As Betty Wright said, “It was too dry at the beginning of the season. And now it’s too wet.”
Radford said powdery mildew has been a problem this year. And Louise Humphrey in North Wilkesboro has been plagued by voles.
“We got almost no squash (yellow crookneck) this summer,” said Humphrey. “First time ever. The problem, apparently, was voles. We have someone spraying some kind of organic stuff containing castor oil that’s supposed to deter them.”
Ferrell agreed that voles are destructive, and since she has plenty of cucumbers and butternut squash, maybe the pollinator thing is a non-issue.
Whatever the reason, for the first time in a long time, a lot of gardeners are going to have to make some tough decisions on how to use the squash they do have. And non-gardeners may not be gifted with the largess of excess they have received from their gardening friends in seasons past.
If you find yourself in either of these situations, the recipes below may help you to decide how best to utilize the squash you do have. Choose wisely.
Summer Squash Mushroom Casserole
2 medium yellow summer squash, diced
1 large zucchini, diced
1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup crushed butter-flavored crackers (about 25 crackers)
1 tbsp. butter, melted
In a large skillet, saute the summer squash, zucchini, mushrooms and onion in oil until tender; drain. In a large bowl, combine the vegetable mixture, cheese, soup, sour cream and salt. Transfer to a greased 11×17-in. baking dish. Combine cracker crumbs and butter. Sprinkle over vegetable mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F. for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly. Prep: 20 min. Bake: 25 min. Makes 10 servings
Baked Parmesan Yellow Squash Rounds
An upgrade on the fried squash from the olden days. It’s baked, not fried, so there’s minimal fat. And parmesan cheese instead of flour or cornmeal packs a wallop of flavor. You might not even notice they’re not fried.
2 medium-sized yellow summer squash
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Place an oven rack in the center position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil (lightly misted with nonstick cooking spray) or parchment paper. Wash and dry the squash, and then cut each one into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange the squash rounds on the prepared pan, with little to no space between them. Lightly sprinkle the squash with garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use a small spoon to spread a thin layer of Parmesan cheese on each slice of squash. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the Parmesan melts and turns a light golden brown. (Watch these closely the first time you make them and pull them out of the oven early if the Parmesan is golden before 15 minutes. Alternatively, you may broil them for a minute or two at the end of the cooking time to speed up the browning.) Serve immediately. Yield: 2 to 4 servings
Yellow Squash Fritters
1 lb. yellow squash, unpeeled
1/2 medium onion (4 oz.)
1 large egg
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. unsalted butter for frying
Shred squash in food processor using the shredding attachment. Place on clean towels and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Finely chop the onion. Place in a colander to drain for 10 minutes. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg with the salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Add the grated squash and the onion and mix to blend. Brush the skillet with half of the butter. Measuring 1/4 cup per fritter, spoon the mixture onto the skillet. Fry without moving, 4-5 minutes, until you can see that the bottoms are browned. Carefully flip to the other side and fry 4-5 more minutes, until browned on both sides. Brush the skillet with more butter and repeat with the remaining squash mixture. Prep Time: 10 minutes. Cook Time: 20 minutes. Total Time: 30 minutes. Servings: 4 servings.
5 medium-sized yellow squash
¾ cup self-rising yellow cornmeal
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt, divided
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ medium sweet onion, minced
½ jalapeno, finely minced
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Chop off ends of squash, cut in half lengthwise and then into 2-inch pieces. Place in a steamer basket and place basket in a pot over simmering water. Place a lid on the pot, turn heat to low and steam squash for 12-15 minutes or until squash is very tender. Place squash in a medium bowl and mash well with a fork. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Mix together . To bowl with squash, add onion, jalapeno, buttermilk, and egg. Mix together well. Add squash mixture to cornmeal mixture and stir just until blended. Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch in a deep cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven. Heat oil to 350°F. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into oil and fry until golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with remaining ½ teaspoon salt while still hot. Yield: approximately 25 squash puppies
Pesto-Topped Grilled Summer Squash
Toasty rustic pesto takes simple grilled squash from ordinary to exceptional with tangy lemon and fresh garlic. Serve as a side dish or chop the grilled squash, combine with the pesto and toss with pasta for a light entree.
½ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
2 medium summer squash, (about 1 pound), sliced diagonally ¼ inch thick
Canola or olive oil cooking spray
Preheat grill to medium-high. Combine basil, pine nuts, oil, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. Coat both sides of squash slices with cooking spray. Grill the squash until browned and tender, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve topped with the pesto. (To toast pine nuts, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.)
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.