Bounty of Zucchini | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Bounty of Zucchini

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After one of the strangest winter seasons I can remember, it seems warm weather is finally here to stay. Even though the official start of summer isn't until June 21, Mississippi typically only has a few days of true spring weather before we plow headfirst into summer.

Most gardeners already have their summer gardens planted; however, if you would like to try growing your own vegetables, it's not too late. It makes me happy every time I walk out to my herb garden and snip some fresh basil for my spaghetti sauce, fresh thyme for my roast chicken or fresh rosemary for a steak marinade.

I may have gone overboard with the tomato plants this year, and if I don't end up with a bounty, I will be greatly disappointed. If you don't have a lot of space for a big garden, the Mississippi State Extension Office suggests growing plants that don't require a lot of room such as lima beans, lettuces, green onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers and eggplant. As space permits, you can add broccoli, cabbage, hot peppers, okra, summer squash, peas and pole beans. When looking for the best area to plant a garden, look for a spot that gets direct sunlight for at least six to eight hours a day. And don't forget to water. Mississippi summers are notoriously hot.

If your green thumb is a little brown or gardening is just not your thing, I encourage you to check out a local farmer's market. Often, market prices are lower than grocery stores because you are cutting out the middleman. The produce is grown locally, so you are giving back to your community. Not only that, the fruits and vegetables are at their peak and have spent less time in transit, enhancing their taste, texture and aroma. Don't believe me? Slice into a fresh tomato or bite into a handful of strawberries from a farm stand. There is no comparison.

I have discovered some great deals on fresh plants and herbs for my garden that were considerably cheaper than a lot of the larger retail chains. (They also seem to water their plants more frequently. Have you noticed some of the larger chains—which shall remain nameless—expect you to buy half dead plants?).

Now is the time to take advantage of the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available. If you end up with a bumper crop of zucchini, try this vegetarian alternative to crab cakes. They make a great appetizer for a summer barbeque or as afternoon snack with a glass of cold iced tea.

Zucchini Cakes with Dill Dipping Sauce

Dill Dipping Sauce
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Zucchini Cakes
2-1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (i.e. Old Bay)
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large carrot, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup canola oil

Zucchini Cakes with Dill Dipping Sauce
For the dip, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the cakes, place shredded zucchini in a colander to drain for up to two hours, or wrap in cheesecloth and squeeze to remove excess liquid. Pat dry and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, seafood seasoning and garlic powder. Combine egg and butter. Add to bread crumbs and stir until blended. Add the carrot, onion and zucchini.
Place flour in a shallow bowl. Shape zucchini mixture into 24 small patties. Coat with flour.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Fry patties, a few at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Serve with dip.
Makes 2 dozen cakes and 3/4 cup dip.

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