I know that vegetable gardeners tend to over plant at times, leading to a vegetable glut during a particularly benevolent season. Last spring I planted two zucchini seedlings in the hope that they would provide us with zucchini over this past summer. All I can say after eating zucchini since 26th December right through to today, thank heavens I did not plant three or more seeds “just in case” the weather/pests/bandicoots/rats/summer storms ruined my chances of harvesting what we thoroughly enjoy over the hot months of the year in this beautiful part of the world in country Victoria.
Zucchini plants are like cuckoos. They settle themselves into their new home and enjoy all the water and fertilisers you can give them. They then proceed to expand out of their allotted space in the vegetable garden and invade other prime real estate without any by your leave. Smaller vegetables are simply pushed out of the way by these invaders. However, all is forgiven when the first zucchinis are harvested. The flavour is subtle yet divine. The first pick is always steamed and dressed with garlic, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and some white wine vinegar – not too much though.
Round about mid February, zucchini plants have taken over the world with the populate or perish attitude. Everyone has too many zucchinis on hand and can barely keep up with this prolific breeder. These plants must be watched day and night because those hot summer nights with plentiful water and fertiliser means the fruits put on size day and night. We laugh when we hear someone complain about the one that got away as they harvest a club that would make a caveman proud to own such a massive lethal weapon.
For me personally, I put aside everything I have written about the invasive nature of zucchini plants when I consider the delicious pasta sauces I make from this simple yet delicious vegetable. Of course, I always add freshly harvested aubergine to this wonderful sauce base, along with some other vegetables to create the “soffritto” base that is so common in my ancestral cuisine. I had to learn to cook at an early age and did this by standing by the kitchen stove and listening to my mother recite the mantra of the sofritto to me until I could recite it back to her. This is how my mother learned to cook – all oral tradition. Great care and consideration is given to the soffritto because this combination will set the flavour for the entire cooked sauce.
All the essential herbs and adjuncts are added, including tomato passata; that delicious tomato puree that we make.
The sauce is cooked down over 2 hours until it thickens. The aroma throughout the house and garden is enticing to say the least. We usually eat a portion with some freshly cooked pasta that has been laced with home made pesto from a freshly cooked batch of this scrumptious sauce base.
The real benefit of this food is that is can be frozen for use throughout the winter months. Honestly, this is the main way I deal with any zucchini gluts throughout the warmer months of the year. The whole idea of home vegetable gardening is not only economically based but sensory based as well. Who can possibly resist the aroma of vegetables, tomatoes, basil and Parmesan in the middle of winter?
Go on then, plant yourself some zucchini next season but I warn you now. Don’t turn your back on them.