Last year’s garden was abysmal. There, I said it. We built raised beds and hauled in special soil. The soil was a tremendous disappointment. Anything planted in it struggled to stay alive, refused to grow, or just keeled over graveyard-dead. Then, I had my second surgery and wasn’t allowed in the garden for the rest of the season. My kids and husband, who already have full plates of their own, had to take on my chores. Inevitibly, some things fell through the cracks. Things like watering and weeding.
So, this year the kids dumped what seemed like tons of bunny berries (rabbit manure) on the beds. I got well enough to plant and weed, and Liam and I installed a drip irrigation system. Compared to last year, this year’s garden might well be hanging in Babylon! To us, after last year’s disaster, fresh homegrown produce is one of the wonders of the world!
Last year, I put in two zucchini plants. I figured that would be enough for our family to eat fresh. We were just setting up our homestead and didn’t have a lot of freezer space. The plants struggled, but survived. However, they had only male flowers. We didn’t get a single squash.
So, this year, I made space and put in six (yes, six) Zucchini starts. Naturally, rolling with the perverse whims of gardening, each plant has produced about six times the normal amount. There is a green tide rolling through my garden and into my kitchen! I try to stay ahead of the wave, but it never fails that while I’m gone to work it overflows its borders and leaves a squashy inundation on my kitchen island!
We’ve been eating zucchini grilled, boiled, sauteed, roasted, frittered, and stuffed. I’ve been adding it to quiches, casseroles, soups, and salads. We’ve also put what seems like about twelve tons in storage for fall and winter.
Most of the zucchini (and yellow crookneck) for soups, casseroles, and eating sauteed is sliced, blanched, and frozen. After slicing it into 1/3 inch rounds, I drop it in boiling water for 3 minutes and put it in ice water until thoroughly chilled. (When I checked online sources, 1/4 inch slices are reccommended. However, I personally prefer thicker slices and haven’t had any problem with quality.)
When it’s chilled, I drain the slices thoroughly. I put the drained slices on parchemt paper lined cookie sheets and flash freeze them. Then, I simply pop them into a good quality freezer bag. It’s easier if you remember to label the bag ahead of time. Writing on squash filled bags isn’t really great for the squash or the handwriting. Freezing them individually first lets me store them all in big bags and pour out the ammount needed for a recipe or side dish.
This year, we’re dehydrating a LOT of shredded zucchini and yellow squash. We’ve always done some for zucchini bread. However, this year we discovered Zucchini Baked Oatmeal Bars. These are quick, cheap, healthy, and filling, which earns them a place on our breakfast roster. So, the dehydrator has been running nonstop.
Dehydrating summer squash is easy! If I’m dehydrating slices, I blanch them for 3 minutes. This improves the color and texture of the final product. However, I don’t bother blanching, when I’m drying shredded squash. I simply wash it, shred it, place it on the drying tray, and turn the dehydrator on 125-130`. My last batch took about 16 hours to dry. If my layer of squash is a little thick, I stir it two or three times during drying. I dry it until there’s no visible moisture, and I remove it from the dehydrator the moment I turn it off.
I place the dried shreds in a container and leave it open to air for a couple of hours. I shake or stir it, just until it reaches room temperature. Then, I close the container. I come back and peek at the container several times over the next couple of days. I need to be sure no condensation forms in the jar or bag. If I see signs of condensation, it means there is still moisture in the squash. If that happens, I put the food back in the dehydrator and get the rest of the moisture out. If moisture remains in the squash, it will mold and go bad. However, if it’s thoroughly dried and properly stored, it will last for a very long time.
It’s important to us that nothing on our place goes to waste. It’s also terriffic to bite into hot freshly baked zucchini bread slathered with butter in January. Putting up squash is simple and easy! If you want to learn to preserve food for your family, this is a great gateway food!
Is an ocean of green (or yellow) washing over your kitchen? Do you blanch your shredded squash? Did you some how end up with six zucchini plants AND five yellow crooknecks in your garden this year? Leave me a comment if you have the time, please! I love to hear from y’all, and I love to hear your homesteading and homemaking stories!
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