Zoom into the Zucchini Zone

Hannah and James Huang grow fruit and vegetables in Kapahi and Kealia on a total of 5-acres. Some commercial fertilizer is used, but plants are mostly fed with compost made at the farm from organic chicken manure, plant matter and fishmeal. The Huangs plant GMO-free seeds and do not use chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.

What’s growing

Asparagus, amaranth, arugula, Asian greens, apple bananas, basil, beets, bok choi, broccoli, broccoli raab (Chinese broccoli), carrots, choi sum, coconuts, corn, cucumber, herbs, guava, lemon, lemon balm, lemongrass, lettuce, mint, mustard greens, papaya, parsley, passion fruit, pea shoots, pomelo, radish, salad mix, scallions, strawberries, sunflower sprouts, thyme, tomatoes (heirloom, cherry and grape), zucchini.

Zucchini

Zucchini, or courgette, is a delicate summer squash which is eaten when the fruit is immature. Skin, flesh and seeds are all tender and edible. Zucchini are considered a summer squash, because unlike winter squash, they do not store for long periods. They are in the same family as melons and cucumbers and for Native Americans, zucchini, along with beans and corn, were considered one of the Three Sisters.

Summer squash can grow very large, and when allowed to do so, some varieties can have coarse, stringy flesh and large, tough seeds. Fruit should be picked at an immature stage, when the flesh and skin are tender and succulent. Extremely immature zucchini have an unripe, almost bitter flavor. Those that are a little larger, but still have the flower attached, are far better and they improve with another few inches before they start losing flavor and texture.

Season: Zucchini can be grown year-round in Hawaii, but warm weather is required for the best growth and production. Zucchini usually produces harvestable fruit 50 to 60 days after planting.

What to look for

Choose firm zucchini that are heavy for their size. Skin should be glossy and uniformly colored and squash should be plump with the stem end fresh and green. Avoid those with nicks, pits, bruises or soft spots.

Storage

Zucchini should not be stored longer than three days. They are prone to chilling damage which shows as sunken pits in the surface of the fruit, especially when quickly brought to room temperature after cold storage.

Preparation

To prepare, simply wash and cut off stem end. Leave the skin on, as it is where most of the antioxidants are. If the squash is no more than 2-inches in diameter, slice into coins and use accordingly. To dice larger zucchini, cut into ¼-inch lengths, stack and cut into ¼-inch rows, then dice into cubes.

Zucchini have a mild flavor with a slightly sweet and astringent taste, and can be eaten raw. They are thought to be a “cooling” food, so they add a light and refreshing element to dishes which is welcome on a hot day.

Zucchini are at their best grilled, roasted, sauteéd, steamed or stir-fried. The squash pairs especially well with black pepper, butter, cheese (goat, feta and Parmesan), eggplant, garlic, lemon, onions, flat-leaf parsley, peppers (bell and chili), thyme, tomatoes and vinegar.

Zucchini blossoms are edible and many people consider them a delicacy. They are typically stuffed with a cheese and herb mixture and deep-fried. You can make them healthier by sauteéing in a little oil or steaming them. Serve with a side of marinara for dipping. The flower petals can also be sliced thinly and added to soups or omelets.

Grated summer squash is often added to quick bread, muffin and cake batter; it can also be substituted for some or all of the carrots in carrot cake.

Tip

Since summer squash are more than 95 percent water, they can dilute some dishes. If you are adding zucchini to an omelet or salad, you may want to salt it first. This technique draws out liquid and concentrates flavor. Simply grate or cut as you like and toss with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt for 8-ounces of zucchini. Let stand in a colander set over a bowl for 20 to 30 minutes. Squeeze remaining water out with your hands before using.

Health benefits

Summer squash has long been recognized as an important source of carotenoids, but new research shows how superior summer squash is when it comes to key antioxidants. In one study, summer squash was the primary food source of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. In several studies, summer squash was one of the top three food sources for lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin, which are three health-supportive carotenoids.

Additionally, squash blossoms are a good source of beta carotene, vitamin C and potassium.

Research shows that an unusual amount of pectin in summer squash is linked to protection against diabetes and better regulation of insulin.

Kauai Glory Farms produce can be found at:

Island School; Farmers Markets: Koloa (Mondays at noon), Kukui Grove (Mondays at 3 p.m.), Waipa (Tuesdays at 2 p.m.), Kapaa (Wednesdays at 3 p.m.), Kilauea (Thursdays at 4:30 p.m.), Kauai Community College (Saturday at 10 a.m.), Hanalei (Saturdays at 9:30); Restaurants: Pacific Island Bistro, #1 BBQ; Distribution: Esaki’s Produce.

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Marta Lane has been a food writer on Kauai since 2010. She graduated from a 12-week organic farming course on the North Shore and went on to become the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture manager. Marta is the author of Tasting Kauai: Restaurants – From Food Trucks to Fine Dining, A Guide to Eating Well on the Garden Island. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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