Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

Zucchini Madness

by Lois Winston

I’m a city girl exiled in the suburbs. I grew up surrounded by concrete. But since living in the suburbs means having a backyard, over the years I’ve tried to cultivate the fine art of gardening. Unfortunately, long ago I had to accept the fact that I was born without the Green Thumb Gene. When plants see me coming, they wither up and die. With one exception: I can grow zucchini.

Decades ago, when I first tried growing zucchini, I made the mistake of planting three plants. It was a good thing we had a separate freezer back then, and raw zucchini freezes well. We ate zucchini at just about every meal all winter. Ever since then, I’ve planted one zucchini a season.

Recently we were away for two weeks. I knew I’d come home to a bumper crop of zucchini, and I did. However, we’ve had a very hot, wet summer. When you combine heat and rain and leave your zucchini to itself for two weeks, you come home to zucchinis larger than most newborn babies. So I spent a day grating, baking, and freezing. My freezer is now filled with zucchini breads, muffins, cakes, and dozens of freezer bags, each filled with two cups of grated zucchini for future use, all from only one of the ginormous zucchinis. The other has been sitting in my refrigerator, awaiting another day of grating, baking, and freezing. Meanwhile, I’ve been picking and serving normal size zucchini.

And that brings me to the other day when I once again abandoned my zucchini plant for two days to head down the shore with a couple of girlfriends. I checked my zucchini plant before I left. There wasn’t a single microscopic zucchini hiding anywhere, but when I came home yesterday, I was greeted by another bumper crop, including one more ginormous zucchini. I swear zucchini grows faster than kudzu! So my plan was to spend today grating, baking, and freezing.

However, I’m not grating, baking, and freezing because we woke up this morning to no air-conditioning. It’s about 90 degrees in the house. No way am I turning on the oven. As I write this, the HVAC guys are packing up because it turns out we need a new unit. That’s going to cost thousands of dollars, but the even worse news is that there’s no way they’re going to be able to install one before we go to bed tonight. Enough bad news? Not quite. We’re expecting torrential rains tonight. So we won’t even be able to open the windows.

Meanwhile, for those of you with an abundance of zucchini and a cool house, here’s one of my favorite zucchini recipes.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bundt Cake

6 Tbsp. cocoa
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini, packed
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray bundt pan with non-stick baking spray with flour.

Set aside 1/8 cup flour. Sift together remaining flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. Mix together cocoa, butter, and sugar. Beat in eggs, oil, and vanilla. Blend in grated zucchini. Add flour mixture.

Toss chocolate chips with remaining flour. This helps keep chocolate chips from all sinking to the bottom of the cake batter once the cake is in the oven. Fold chocolate chips into batter. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.

Bake for about 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean.

Let cake cool for several minutes, then unmold onto cake plate to finish cooling.

When completely cool, dust with confectioner’s sugar.
How are your gardening skills? Do you cultivate bushels of Blue Ribbon quality produce throughout the summer? Or do you, like me, lack the Green Thumb Gene?

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