Written By: Tuesday, August 9th 2016

Here is an itemized list of things I can reliably expect to happen in August:

-My lawn turns the colour of Corn Flakes.

-Despite regularly slathering with sunscreen, I sunburn my chest to a rich, ruby red.

-The lovely, flowering baskets I coddled in June hang sadly in my front porch, now resembling old Ceaser salad.

-I have more zucchini in my garden than I know what to do with.

While the first three items on that list I could gladly do without, I am not put off by my garden’s abundance of zucchini. Why won’t you catch me stealthily abandoning orphan zucchinis on my neighbour’s porch? Because I firmly believe that zucchini is your vegetable conduit to creative thinking. That might sound like lofty praise of such a humble vegetable, but think about it: the abundance of zucchini in late summer forces gardeners, cooks and bakers to invent new, palatable solutions to deal with their zucchini harvest. Just Google ‘zucchini recipes’ and I promise you’ll have more results than you could ever possibly try in a lifetime.

In celebration of this genius green gourd, Midland is having its first zucchini festival -Zucchini Mania! – on Aug 27. It’s true; there have been those naysayers (ye of little faith!) who make sour-lemon faces when I mention we’re having a zucchini festival. I remind those who pooh-pooh the idea of a zucchini festival that people also made those same faces in 2012 when I said, “Hey you guys, let’s have a butter tart festival!” (And that turned out to be pretty good if I say so myself!). But seriously, I think the zucchini festival will be another event success story for Midland for one very important reason: like butter tarts, people have stories about zucchini. Since launching the idea of a zucchini festival to the public, I have had all manner of people seek me out to tell me their zucchini stories. There’s the visual artist who published an entire book, a photo pictorial, of zucchini in the 70’s; and another woman who cherishes her cheque for .37 cents she won as a child for entering the biggest zucchini into a fall fair contest. There’s the person who brought me pages from a 1981 copy of Chatelaine because they hold her favourite zucchini recipes of all time and the woman who explained in loving detail her husband’s zucchini recipe that he brought with him to Canada when he immigrated. And yes, there have been several people who’ve laughingly related stories about leaving offerings on their neighbours’ porches, having made the rookie mistake of planting too many zucchini in springtime.

Here’re a few fun facts about zucchini, the ‘vegetable incredible’, that you can trot out the next time you’re playing trivia:

-The longest zucchini in the world was grown right here in Ontario! Giovanni Batista Scozzafava (b. Italy) of Niagara Falls grew the massive veg to an impressive 8 ft 3.3 inches in 2014. Mr. Scozzafava claims he used no special fertilizer, just plenty of water.

-While the zucchini varietal we all know and love was refined in Italy in the 19th century, the plant species originated in North America.

-Zucchini is more commonly referred by its French name, courgette, in France, the Netherlands, Ireland and U.K.  Marrow is the term used to describe large, overly mature zucchini.

-Those pretty, yellow zucchini flowers aren’t just nice for looking at! Zucchini is one of the most bee-friendly vegetables you can plant in your garden, due to their abundance of blooms. Stuffed, fried zucchini blossoms are considered a culinary delicacy.

-Zucchini is becoming a popular base for pizza crust among those who can’t eat gluten. Here’s a recipe via recipegirl.com, so you can try it out for yourself:

ZUCCHINI CRUST PIZZA

INGREDIENTS:

PIZZA CRUST:

2 cups grated zucchini (packed), then squeezed dry (see tips below)

2 large eggs, beaten (you can also use 2 large egg whites)

1/4 cup  All-Purpose Flour or sub gluten-free flour blend

1/2 cup finely grated mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

TOPPINGS:

Pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, sauteed mushrooms, crumbled cooked sausage, whatever you’d like!

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a flat cookie sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper. Spray parchment paper with nonstick spray.
  1. In a medium bowl, combine zucchini, eggs, flour, cheeses, oil and seasoning. Mix well.
  1. Pat the zucchini mixture into a thin, round pizza crust- 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Bake 30 minutes, or until the crust begins to get golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven and flip it over. Return it to the oven for an additional 10 minutes (watch to make sure it’s not becoming too browned). Remove the crust from the oven and add the toppings. Return to the oven and heat through until cheeses are melted and everything is heated through. Slice and eat!


TIPS:

Use a medium cut on my box grater for the zucchini. 2 cups will be about 2 large zucchini. Squeeze your 2 cups of zucchini dry, extracting about 1/3 cup moisture out of them. The more you can extract, the better the crust will turn out.

Nutritional Information per serving of CRUST ONLY (no toppings):
Serving size: 1/6th of the pizza
Calories per serving: 121
Fat per serving: 7.4g
Saturated Fat per serving: 3.2g
Sugar per serving: .1g
Sodium per serving: 203.4mg
Fiber per serving: .5g
Protein per serving: 7.8g
Cholesterol per serving: 71.8mg
Carbohydrates per serving: 5.7g

The 1st Annual Zucchini Mania! zucchini festival takes place on Sat, Aug 27th in Little Lake Park, Midland. For more information on this fun, family event, please visit www.zucchinimania.com.

All profits from Zucchini Mania will go to funding programs at Askennonia Senior Centre, North Simcoe’s most valuable recreation resource for people age 55+. For more information on Askennonia, please visit www.askennonia.com.

-Barb Rowlandson