Zucchini is by far my favourite vegetable (ok fruit) to grow and cook. So simple and almost verging on being boring with their sheer abundance, they're just so easy to grow and so versatile to cook with. Plus if you can't grow your own there's always stacks at the grocers. I owe the humble zucchini plant for my now thriving veggie patch and love of home grow food. It was the first veggie I grew - from a packet of Diggers Black Beauty - and it was such a bonza crop that I was hooked from that point on.
If you were starting a patch from scratch, I'd definitely recommend zucchini be a starter crop. They start to yield fruit after nine to ten weeks and they're reasonably care free too - just some good soil to start, regular watering and I pep mine up with some liquid worm feed from the worm farm. I always grow from seed and have fantastic germination and success rates. Being a skin flint, I couldn't bear spending money on expensive seedlings when you can buy organic and heritage seeds for only a few dollars and plant for years to come. I actually think that seedlings from large nursery warehouses can be weak and perish easily and are probably the reason why novice gardeners give up on gardening before they start. I reckon if you raise the seed yourself with love and care, you've got a much better chance of seeing them through to plants. Plus you get the little buzz of delight when you see your seedling poking its head through the soil - magic!
Like any infatuated gardener, I always plant far too many zucchini plants and end up with buckets of excess but this is only a good thing! For a while I sold zucchini at my local growers market which was fun and a great way to meet new veggie swap friends. And of course, I cook up and preserve as many of those zuc's as humanly possible. My favourite cook up is simply chopped zucchini with tomatoes, lightly panned fried with garlic and a big hand full of basil - add the basil when cooked through and leave in the unheated the pan to infuse the herby aroma. I also cook A LOT of zucchini fritters during summer too!
Needlesstosay, we don't buy preserves in our house - we're still munching through the plum chutney and zucchini pickle I made two years ago - such was my zucchini experimentation that year! Homemade pickles and chutneys make the perfect budget gift and if you've got a few jars up your sleeve, you've always got something to bring to a last minute summer barby. This easy-peasy Zucchini Pickle is a household staple now - I make it every year without fail along with Tanya's Green Tomato Chutney although I never usually have enough green tomatoes to make as much of this as I'd like! Whip up a batch of pickle, add a pretty chutney label or traditional cloth cover with ribbon and you've got a sweet little handmade gift.
The Zucchini Pickle recipe I have is scribbled on a scrappy bit of paper, smudged in dried food and teacup stains from years of use - I haven't the foggiest where I got it from - but it's super simple and quick to make. I use my home grown veggies and organic sugars, spices and vinegar and often inter-change white vinegar for apple cider depending on what I've got in the pantry. You could play about with the veggie mix too.
Chop the zucchini, onions and capsicums finely and place in a bowl. Add the salt, mix through and leave to stand for 2 hours or more. Drain the veggies to remove the excess liquid.
Combine the sugar, vinegar, mustard and turmeric in a large saucepan then add the drained vegetables and stir well. Bring the mixture to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for around 20 minutes. You can thicken the mixture with one spoon of cornflour (make a paste with the cornflour and some vinegar) however you rarely need do this if you've left the vegetables to drain well.
Then pour into sterilised jars, seal and decorate when cool.
This pickle is tops with cheese and biccies, quiche and salads along with some pickled walnuts and a glass of your favourite summer tipple. Mmm tis the season…stayed tuned, we'll have some more 'interesting' recipes coming your way to save you from hounding your neighbours with unwanted excess...
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