Squash Out My Ears

I miss it. Every single spring I am jonesing for fresh zucchini and yellow squash. I can barely wait. I consider paying $2 a pound for something sprayed with chemicals and grown on a different continent, but usually hold off.

Then, after the last frost, I plant the seeds. Grow the squash. Hold my breath as I thin the smaller squash away from their larger, stronger sisters. Eventually they have two leaves, and then four, and then a week later (it seems) they are covered in blossoms and bees are everywhere. Soon I can pick that first zucchini and sauté it with dinner.

And then… I have squash coming out my ears. Soon the plants are six feet wide and four feet tall with no end in sight. They produce more squash than I can possibly pick, much less eat. I think, “Why did we plant so many? Do they usually get this big? Shouldn’t they be dying from the squash bugs or fusarium wilt by now?” And they just keep producing. Bushels of fresh, delicious summer squash. More and more all the time.

I know it’s overwhelming, believe me. But the reality is that by next spring you’ll miss it. You’ll be dreaming of stuffed scallop squash and zucchini fritters. Squash grows plentifully and bountifully here in the southwest because its ancestors are native to the Americas. We have everything it needs. So here are some ideas to help you cope with the plethora of squash that you’re getting these days:

Dehydrate it. Plain, it will be a great addition to winter soups. Salted and seasoned it makes incredible healthy chips that you’ll actually enjoy eating.
Freeze it. I love shredding zucchini and sticking it in the freezer for a cold day when nothing sounds better than green chile zucchini bread. Just measure it into freezer-friendly containers and mark it so you know what the heck it is and how much is in there.
Cook it! Fritters, calabacitas, stuffed squash, soups, baked, fried, grilled; this stuff is seriously amazing. Freeze some oven-ready meals too while you’re at it and enjoy the taste of mid-summer freshness long after the birds have flown south.

And know that squash season really does pass quickly. Before you know it, the green chile will be turning orange and then red, the kale will be ready and the tomatoes will all be finishing their season. Apples and acorn squash and pumpkins will be on the menu, but know that the summer squash doesn’t last. It’s fleeting.

(Winter squash like spaghetti squash, acorns, and pumpkins should last for months in a cool, dark place, so don’t worry about cooking them right away unless you want to!)

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