Mid-Summer Spotlight: Zucchini, Green Beans, and Broccoli

We’re at the height of summer weather, which means gardens are filling in nicely and pickin’ fingers are primed. It has been a wetter summer than last, but the sun has been showing enough to make plants burst.

I feel a little spoiled having mother nature around so that I don’t have to remember to water my plants.  Speaking of remembering things, I need to plan a trip to the store to replenish preserving equipment, as it’s only a matter of days before I’ll have too much to eat all at once.

If you don’t have time for preserving, you might consider donating excess vegetables to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. Either way, the fresh veggie season is here! Below, find a quick spotlight on a few of my favorites during this time of year: Zucchini, Green Beans, and Broccoli.


Zucchini

Harvesting: Don’t let these buggers get too big! The tastiest size is between 4 and 8 inches. Cut at the stem leaving a quarter to a half inch of the stem still on. Make sure to use caution while handling because once the fruit is nicked or cut open, it will start to go bad.

Storage: When storing your zukes in the fridge, place them unwashed in a perforated or loosely-tied bag for 4 to 7 days. When you see the first sign of wilting or softening, Process them for freezing, or transform them into a tasty dish. Zucchini can be frozen for long term storage (10-12 months). 1: slice into rounds, 2: blanch for 2 minutes, 3: put into ice water, 4: drain/dry and 5: seal in an airtight bag or container in freezer.  

Eating: Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable when it comes to eating. Zukes can be consumed as a raw ingredient in salads, used as a noodle substitute for pasta dishes, sliced for casseroles, and are even a nice option to green up your grilling menu! Fun fact: the flowers of Zucchini plants can also be eaten, both raw and cooked. A recipe that I will be trying soon is to stuff the flowers and fry them…mmmmm. Don’t forget zucchini as a baking additive. They help make cakes, muffins, and breads very moist! I think you’ll enjoy this great recipe for chocolate zucchini cake.

Green beans

Harvesting

Like zucchini, green beans should be harvested when they are between 4 and7 inches, depending on variety. Letting them get too large means tougher beans. Bush beans usually mature a bit quicker than pole beans. A good rule of thumb for assessing whether your beans are ready to be picked is how easily they snap when they are bent.  If your beans are still flexible it means they need more time to mature. Keep up on harvesting your beans and they’ll be likely to produce more than once!

Storage

Green beans refrigerator storage is similar to that of zucchini. The beans should be unwashed and stored inside a plastic bag or container in the crisper drawer. Doing this will keep your green snacks fresh for up to a week. To freeze, blanch the beans in boiling water for 2-4 minutes, drain, and submerge in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Place in a freezer safe zip lock bag or vacuum seal for longer term storage (no longer than one year.)

Eating

A great snack food! These guys can be picked and eaten right off the plant. They can also be consumed raw with hummus or other dips. Green beans are a popular ingredient in stir fry, or simply steamed as a side dish to green up your meal. Check out this awesome fresh green bean salad recipe—or for an extra special adventure try this recipe for spicy pickled dilly beans!

Broccoli

Harvesting

It is easy to tell when your broccoli is ready to be harvested due to its high visibility. The part of this veggie that you harvest is the head, which sits right on top of the plant. The ideal time for harvesting is when the buds of the broccoli head are firm and tight against each other.

Cut the stalk of the main head at a slant about 4 to 6 inches below the head. Quick tip: the best time of day to harvest broccoli is in the morning before the soil gets too hot. Doing this helps to maintain freshness after the head has been cut from the plant. Once you pick the first head, don’t be surprised if you see more emerge. Also, the lower larger leaves of the broccoli plant can be wrapped around fish or other quick cooking meets and used as a flavorful steaming basket!

Storage

To keep your Broccoli at its freshest during refrigeration, place it in an open bag in your veggie drawer and don’t wash it until you are ready to eat. When freezing your broccoli, follow the same step as with freezing zucchini, (shown above.) The exception is the first step, instead of slicing the broccoli heads, break them up into smaller florets.

Eating

Broccoli is one of the healthiest foods out there and thus one of my favorite mid-summer vegetables. It is extremely high in vitamins and micronutrients and a great source of fiber. Broccoli is a basic food (high in alkaline), which can help to lower stomach acidity and reduce heart burn. It is most nutritious when eaten raw but can also be blanched, steamed, sautéed, or . Make sure to check out this healthy broccoli salad recipe the next time you go to a BBQ or garden pot-luck!

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