Cooking with Fresh Ontario Produce

Cooking with fresh Ontario produce in your home kitchen is very rewarding and healthy! In this article we will go over the process of planting, harvesting, cooking with, and freezing zucchini – one of the easiest vegetables to grow in this area. There are many varieties of zucchini to choose from:

Cooking with Fresh Ontario Produce

Aristocrat – this variety features a waxy skin and is medium green in color

Black Zucchini – very dark green skin and almost white flesh

Zucchini Gadzukes – dark green with distinctive light green ridges (resembles a star when sliced crosswise)

Caserta – pale green in colour, slightly club-shaped

Nimba – medium green squash that are long and straight

Table Dainty – short, fat squash that start as pale green and ripen to a darker green as the squash grows

Gold Rush – A unique zucchini variety that is golden in colour

Black Beauty – this variety bears very dark green skin

Embassy – features medium green fruit, and an almost spineless plant

Greyzini – tender green fruit with light green stripes

Sweet Gourmet – a very light and creamy green skin

Rampicante – can be used as both summer and winter squash, long slender fruits reach 15 inches and feature a flattened bulb at the blossom end

Golden – Bushy heirloom variety, features slender yellow fruit with small seeds and good flavour

Pop in and visit us at our store to see which varieties we have available for purchase.

Zucchini Squash Harvesting: When Is Zucchini Ready To Pick?

Zucchini is a rapid growing vegetable which is three inches long one minute, then suddenly becomes a foot and a half long monster. It’s not always easy to know when to pick fruits and vegetables, and zucchini is no exception. Read on to find out how and when to harvest and begin cooking with fresh Ontario produce.

Harvesting Zucchini

Zucchini is a summer squash, it is a member of the Cucurbita family. Also in this family are melons, pumpkins, cucumbers and gourds. Zucchini grows on a bushy, non-vining plant with large, dark green leaves peppered with silvery-grey streaks. Zucchini grows very rapidly, and that’s why vigilant zucchini picking is so important. It tends to become stringy on the inside with a tough exterior. Generally, when picking zucchini plants, you are looking for smaller, tender ones which are sweet and mild.

The plants produce both male and female flowers, making it a perfect vegetable to grow for those with limited space. One healthy plant will produce more than enough zucchinis for most small families. In fact, harvesting and storing zucchini at the proper time and conditions will undoubtedly provide lots of opportunities for cooking with fresh Ontario produce.

How and When to Harvest Zucchini

Ideally, zucchini harvesting will begin when they are around 6-8 inches long. If you leave the fruit on too long, the seeds and rind harden, making it unpalatable. They should be dark green in colour (or yellow or white depending upon the variety) and firm. If it feels mushy at all, it is probably rotting and should not be used. After all, we should be cooking with fresh Ontario produce, not rotten produce!

Harvesting and Storing Zucchini

When you harvest zucchini, don’t just pull it off of the plant. You will likely damage the plant and cause it to stop producing. Instead, cut the zucchini from the plant at the stem.

Storing Your Fresh Pickings

Store unwashed zucchini in a perforated or open plastic bag for up to a week, or freeze it for later use. It’s very simple to shred unpeeled zucchini, drain it in a colander, and then squeeze it gently to remove excess moisture. Place it in freezer bags and freeze them flat so they can be stacked in the freezer. Shredding it is great, because the end result will likely be zucchini bread or fried zucchini cakes! You can also wash the fruit, dry it, and cut it into one inch cubes and then freeze it in freezer bags. Either way, frozen zucchini lasts up to 3 months. Cooking with fresh Ontario produce, or frozen, tastes extra good when you have grown and harvested it yourself!

Italian Style Skillet Zucchini

(This simple and easy stir-fry is colourful addition to grilled chicken)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 6 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 medium Ontario Zucchini (about 1-1/2 lb)
  • 1 large Ontario Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 Ontario Field Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh Ontario Basil
  • 2 cloves Ontario Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Cut the zucchini in half; cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat; cook zucchini and the chopped onion, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Add the broth; reduce heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes or until evaporated and zucchini is tender-crisp. In a medium sized bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic and pepper; stir into zucchini and heat for 1 minute or until hot. Sprinkle with cheese and additional basil to serve.

Nutritional information: (When recipe serves 6) Protein: 4.0 grams, Fat: 6.0 grams, Carbohydrates: 10.0 grams, Calories: 110

World’s Best Zucchini Bread

This moist and delicious break is great for a quick breakfast or with an afternoon tea.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unpeeled raw zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Instructions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using the butter, grease one 9″ x 5″ large loaf pan, and one 6″ x 3″ mini loaf pan. (Or 4 mini loaf pans) Beat the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar until it is light in color and thick in texture. Fold the grated zucchini into the egg mixture. Sift or whisk the dry ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just blended. Do not over mix. Fold in the chopped pecans if desired. Pour the batter into prepared loaf pans, filling them about three quarters of the way full. Place in the middle of the preheated oven and bake at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out clean. The mini loaf will bake for approximately 30 minutes, the large one for approximately 40 minutes. Cool slightly on a cooling rack before removing them from the pans. Then cool completely on a cooling rack before storing them in an air tight container. This bread keeps well (tightly wrapped in plastic) at room temperature for about 3 days. It also freezes very well. *Doubling the recipe will make 3 large loaves: 1 to eat, 1 to freeze and 1 to give away.

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Hilltop Acres Poultry Products
1501 Maple Bend Road
Bloomingdale, Ontario
N0B 1M0, Canada

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