- Author: Dustin Blakey
I am always amazed to find out that some people plant more than one zucchini plant. My single plant is a giant monster that produces more than I can sneak into our dinners.
Zucchini grows great in our area with one big caveat: squash bugs. I suppose they are something of a blessing since if we didn't have them destroying our plants, we would all be neck-deep in them.
The plant we call zucchini in the USA is a kind of summer squash (Cucurbita pepo), The word zucchini comes to us from Italian, but the species is native to the Americas. In the 19th Century, the modern variety as we know it was bred in northern Italy, so zucchini it is.
Because our climate is fairly inhospitable to pathogenic fungi, there aren't too many diseases that affect summer squashes here. Our primary pests are squash bugs.
Summer squash varieties like zucchini are very sensitive to feeding by squash bugs, and plants will begin to wilt and die if these pests aren't controlled. This page has information on their control. Most gardeners on the east side try to manually remove them on a regular basis from susceptible crops.
If you are able to control the squash bugs, you will likely encounter an even bigger problem with zucchini: the fruit. Most zucchini plants are very productive, to the point of annoyance. Gardeners who have more than a couple plants have been known to disappear for weeks on end under the burden of their abundant harvest. This is serious business!
The internet has lots of great recipes for zucchini, but eventually you too will face the Zucchini Apocalypse. The threat of violence caused by a family that refuses to eat one more zucchini dish cannot be understated! (Zucchini chili was not a big hit at the Blakey home.)
The best way I've found to use zucchini is to strike up a conversation (6 feet apart, of course) with a fellow gardener about squash bugs. If they tell you they've given up on zucchini due to squash bugs, you may be in luck: immediately propose a trade for something like chileno peppers or tomatoes. You'll need to act fast before another desperate gardener reaches them first!
Another often overlooked way to use up zucchini is to preserve them for later use. This recipe for zucchini bread and butter pickles will use up 16 cups worth all at once! Since I already have a cupboard full of cucumber bread and butter pickles, I needed to go to Plan B: zucchini chips.
Zucchini sliced into ¼” thick slices can be dehydrated with some seasoning into tasty chips. In my two latest batches I used either chile-lime seasoning or seasoned salt. Lemon pepper, Cajun spice mixes, dehydrated kimchi powder, or salt and pepper all work very well. (Instructions for dehydrating fruits and vegetables can be found in this fact sheet.)
Preserving zucchini allows you to eat it during the off-season when the memory of your Zucchini Apocalypse is distant. Trust me: it tastes better in November.