Zucchini: Alberta Favourite

Prairie gardeners grow the hardy summer squash called zucchini or courgette. In Edmonton, we grow the basic long green zucchini and another variety called Papaya Pear, which is yellow and....pear shaped. 

Grow zucchini from seed planted directly in the garden, once the soil has warmed up in late May. Or start your own bedding plants a few weeks early and plant out when temperatures are above all danger of frost. Zucchini is an annual plant that will readily die when temperatures dip at or below freezing. 

Give each plant lots of room to grow. These are not trailing squashes - just big plants. Full sun is preferred. The hard clay (but fertile) soils of Edmonton require the addition of leaves and compost. 

If you notice the young leaves are damaged and eaten, skim around the soil surface (about 1 inch below) and you may find a cutworm or two to remove. Powdery mildew, a thin, pale chalky film, may strike the leaves of the plant mid season and hinder growth. There are seed varieties that resist powdery mildew. 

By late July, small zucchinis are ready to eat. They are at their best for fresh eating when small, so harvest early and harvest often. No need to peel away the skin - it is mild and edible. Eat them cooked or raw.

Cut it in half along the length, and brush it with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dust the top with cinnamon. Grill for about 5 minutes with the peel side down and flip it over for just for a few minutes. It gets mushy if overcooked.

Spiralize raw zucchini or shave it with a vegetable peeler for fresh use in salads. Some use it in place of pasta. 

It's good chopped and lightly fried in olive oil & garlic. Basil and shaved parmesan cheese enhance the flavour of zucchini. 

For the ambitious, there is always zucchini loaf.
Papaya Pear Zucchini
Don't underestimate the lowly zucchini. It is refreshingly delicious and easy to grow. By August, we are inundated with zucchini. We offer our extra giant zucchinis to neighbours, out front on a table, with a sign that says 'Zucchini - Free'. 

They go fast. Albertans make good use of this classic, old fashioned vegetable.