Food / Groceries, Frugal, Saving Money

Zucchini – Valuable Ally of Frugal Cooks

zucchiniMy family has long had a love hate relationship with zucchini. My grandparents, mom and I have planted one plant each and every year for as long as I can remember. Until about mid-August every loaf of fresh-baked zucchini bread tastes like it came straight from heaven. But then it happens. At the end of summer, we’re just sick of zucchini. Then it begins: The tooth and nail fight to give away as many zucchini as possible to all unsuspecting bystanders.

Once, when I came home from college, my grandma hid an entire 15 pound box of them in the trunk of my car. That’s what I get for leaving my car unattended for a split second in late August.

This year, as I watched in horror as the last of the tiny fruit on my plant quadrupled in size overnight, I thought “What the hell am I going to do with that?”

So I hit the books and came up with some solutions for those of you who, like me, are cursed with too many zucchini. And, of course, at this point in the summer, you’ve cooked them every way you can think of already. In an era of double-digit price increases at the grocery store, it’s downright criminal to waste perfectly good food. The zucchini is a valuable ally to budget conscious cooks. It’s inexpensive, nutritious, and its mild taste makes it a good recipe stretcher. Anyone who likes to save a buck should revere the zucchini. It’s just a question of figuring out what to do with so darn many of them.

Well, don’t give up and throw them away. After all, zucchini are America’s thriftiest veggie. They selflessly produce and produce enough to feed you many times from just one plant. If we were all starving cave people, we would have really appreciated that, so now is the time to repay that karmic debt and thank the zucchini for keeping our New World ancestors from starving.

First, if you are out of ideas, a trip to the library to pick up a new cookbook may be just what the zucchini ordered. Some of my personal favorites:

The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash, has a dozen or more recipes for the humble squash, including quiche, stews, and spicy breads.

Another solid choice: Life’s Little Zucchini Cookbook: 101 Zucchini Recipes by Joan Bestwick has recipes for more exotic fare such as zucchini pudding and zucchini lasagna. The Classic Zucchini Cookbook by Nancy Ralston has recipes for zucchini cookies. If your library doesn’t have zucchini-specific books, most vegetarian cookbooks dedicate plenty of space to this hard-working squash.

If you are up to your eyeballs in fruit and can’t spare a trip to the library, here are a couple of examples of new, gourmet zucchini recipes. I’ve tried them and they have made zucchini something to look forward to rather than something to dread.

Zucchini Veggie Burgers

You’ll need

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 shredded jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 3 tbs. finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp each of thyme and dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
  • cooking oil

Beat eggs, and in large bowl, stir in wheat germ, cheese, mushrooms, onion, thyme, rosemary and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. On plastic wrap, shape mixture into 4 equal patties, each about 3/4 inch thick. Heat cooking oil in skillet. Cook patties over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until golden brown on bottom. Flip and do the same. Serve on buns like a burger.

(This recipe has been adapted from The Low-Fat Vegetarian Cookbook from Sunset Books.)

Individual patties can be separated with wax paper, bagged and frozen, and they are much cheaper and more yummy per serving than store bought veggie burgers.

Zucchini with Lump Crab Meat

This is quick, easy and gourmet. Shred several medium or one large zucchini, place in a casserole dish. Top with lumps of fresh crab meat, and bake at 375 degrees until crab is warm all the way through.

If You Can’t Cook It, Save It

If you are sick of zucchini, shred what you have left and freeze it. I shred and freeze zucchini, putting 2 cups in each bag. That’s how much I need to make two loaves of zucchini bread. I may be sick of that bread now, but in the middle of winter, it will be a nice change. I just take the zucchini out of the freezer, thaw it and make fresh loaves of bread.

Use zucchini as a filler in fresh-made pasta sauce. I turn all of the end of year Roma tomatoes in my garden into sauce, then I freeze it and use it all winter. Zucchini makes a lovely addition to that sauce and freezes well.

And for the three people in America who don’t have a zucchini bread recipe, here is the one my grandma passed down to me. It really is delicious, and once baked freezes well.

Classic Zucchini Bread

  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, creamed
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups grated zucchini

Mix it all together, place in two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 for one hour, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Happy Eating!

Image courtesy of Lori-B.

5 thoughts on “Zucchini – Valuable Ally of Frugal Cooks

  1. I loved this article! I grew a zucchini this year and it yielded exactly 1 fruit. It was sooooooooooo frustrating. As a vegetarian I use zucchini alot and was prepared for an abundant harvest.

  2. Very interesting…I didn’t realize zucchini plants were so prolific. I’ll have to plant one once I have a house with a yard. My attempts at growing large vegetables in pots has been totally unsuccessful, so I’m sticking with herbs for now. What a money saver and flavor enhancer my herb garden has been, though, not to mention that it’s pretty to look at.

  3. I love zucchini bread. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll try it next time. Amy, about your veggies in pots. I grow tomatoes in pots. This year I used smaller pots and that was not a good idea. Your herbs sound lovely.

  4. I had to giggle reading this as it so much hit home. I was visiting my parents this summer and Dad had planted several zucchini and squash plants.

    He had them in such abundance. My sister has 8 kids and even she was having difficulty using up Dad’s produce. And she kept telling him to pick them when they are smaller.

    Dad is of the opinion, the bigger the better! 🙂 These zucchini were monstrous in size. Thanks for bringing back some good memories of time well spent.

    I’m planning to use your zucchini bread recipe (yes, I do have my own) for a little different twist.


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