It happens. You go away for a few days in August and come back to a zucchini patch that has hatched green baby belugas. Apples cover the lawn like a spilled bag of marbles under your backyard tree. The kitchen table is covered with the peaches that you just had to stop at that roadside stand for. The bounty of summer is upon us and for most of us, it’s more than we can use.
Contrary to what we’re often told, there isn’t so much of a food shortage in the world but rather, food is not equally distributed and a full 40 per cent of food is wasted. It never has the chance to make it onto the tables of the hungry and there are a lot of hungry people. The U.N. says 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger and 2 billion – a third of the world – suffer from hidden hunger.
Several Alberta organizations are working to do something about food inequity. This post will reveal who they are and how you can support them. As for those zucchini posing as big green baseball bats? Consider this post Zucchini 101 where I’ll reveal my Top 10 things to do with the wild child of the garden.
There are some great organizations in Alberta working to disperse food more evenly and to decrease food waste. I’ll cover a few in Edmonton and Calgary for now.
Fruits of Sherbrooke was started by Christina Piecha, Carol Cooper and Al Cosh, three retired government employees. In 2010 Christina and Carol were out for a walk when they saw garbage bags of apples being thrown away by neighbours. Christina said, what a waste, they could be feeding people and she and enlisted Carol and Al to help her gather that fruit and connect it with the agencies and people who needed it. Carol is a great cook and she is now in charge of teaching groups to make condiments from the apples, crab apples, rhubarb, sour cherries and pears the group is able to gather in Edmonton, Sherwood Park and St. Albert, Alberta. The jams and jellies made are sold at markets to fund the organization’s efforts to disperse the fruits with people in need and to teach the jam making classes and rent the space the program needs. Al runs the markets and coordinates a team of sales vendors.
August is when the group makes plans for harvesting. If you live in and around Edmonton and have fruit to donate click here to get involved.
The group also needs volunteers to assist with cooking, picking fruit, teaching classes, shopping, being a vendor at markets, taking on programs such as the the snacks they make for a group called E4C or for the partnering of pickers and homeowners.There’s also computer work, administration and accounting. Al says, “It is rewarding work and you get to take home lots of fruit in the summer.” You can volunteer here.
Last year the group diverted 15,000 kilos of apples from landfills and 1300 kilos of rhubarb. They had many other fruits – sour cherries, raspberries, Saskatoons and pears and will pay particular attention to weighing all the fruits this year.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign they now use much of the fruit to make apple chips and fruit leathers for the children’s school nutrition programs run by E4C. This is really a model that is scaleable and transferrable to other cities in the world. But, it will take exceptionally community-minded individuals like Al, Carol and Christina to make that happen.
Calgary Harvest has worked the last six years to help disperse the bounty of fruit grown by homeowners in our city. Their model is that homeowners register their tree, volunteers sign up to pick and one third of the harvest goes to the homeowner, one third to the picker and the remaining third to a community food organization. You can sign up to volunteer here.
The Calgary Farmers’ Market is mounting a program called Food For All this weekend where people can donate fresh fruit and vegetables to The Calgary Food Bank. Other things needed are peanut butter, pasta, pasta sauce, baby food and formula.
Grow Calgary is an organization that grows fresh food on an 11 acre parcel of city land for Calgary’s compassionate food agencies. It is run by volunteers committed to the belief that all people deserve access to fresh healthy food. No experience is need to volunteer. You can just show up during hours of operations – which are extensive in the summer.
A final model I’d like to include here is called LeftoversYYC. This non-for-profit was started by Lourdes Juan here in Calgary in 2012. This group rescues food from being thrown in the garbage by food businesses who are unable to sell it during their business day. Leftovers YYC delivers the rescued food to service agencies in need. They have 130 volunteers and 22 donor businesses and they rescue about 2000 pounds of food each week in Calgary.
You might like to volunteer for one of these agencies but even if you can’t there’s still a lot you can do on a personal level. The United Nations has a program called Think. Eat. Save. that has shown even becoming aware and stopping to think about what you waste causes people to waste less. They have 10 strategies to change your eating patterns to decrease waste.
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for:
My Top Ten Ways to get Zen with Zucchini (in absolutely no particular order because that wouldn’t be Zen)
1 – Nicely Spiced Zucchini Date Nut Bread
Time: 15 minutes prep and 50 – 60 to bake
Yield: 2 large loaves
Tips: Freezes well. It’s easier to slice if you wrap it in plastic wrap and leave for a day.
3 extra large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup of pitted dates (heated in the microwave on high for 45 seconds)
½ cup organic canola oil
2 cups packed finely grated (unpeeled) zucchini
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder (if you can’t find this – use allspice or cloves)
1 cup chopped pecans
¾ cup golden raisons
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until fluffy.
Add the dates and canola oil and mix thoroughly.
Fold in the zucchini.
Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, Chinese 5 spice powder and beat on medium just until the mix is evenly incorporated.
Stir in the pecans and raisins.
Pour the batter into 2 loaf pans and bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan for 15 and then invert onto a rack to cool completely.
2 – Zucchini Bell Pepper Relish
(from Canadian Living magazine, August, 1993)
This is a recipe that I cut out of a Canadian Living magazine in 1993. It’s a keeper because of how easy it is to make this relish compared to a lot of preserves. You may end up blessing your bounty of zucchini yet.
3 lbs of (unpeeled) zucchini (weigh it on a scale – mine turned into 5 cups grated)
3 finely diced yellow onions
2 finely diced bell peppers (I used orange and red)
¼ cup pickling salt
2 ½ cups cane sugar
1 ½ cups white vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery seeds
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 Tablespoon water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Cut the zucchini into large chunks about 2X2 inches each and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely grated and then transfer to a large bowl with the onions and peppers.
Sprinkle with the pickling salt, stir and leave for one hour.
Drain the mixture through a sieve, rinse with running water, drain again and press to remove excess moisture. Set aside.
Combine the sugar, vinegar, mustard, celery seeds, pepper and turmeric in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.
Add the drained vegetables and return to a boil, stirring frequently.
Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has thickened – about 15 minutes.
Combine the water and cornstarch and stir into the relish.
Cook and stir for 5 minutes or until the liquid clears and thickens.
Note: you could stop here, bottle the relish in clean jars and give it away for immediate consumption or carry on to seal and preserve it for up to one year.
To process and preserve the relish safely:
Bring water to boil in a water bath.
Wash and rinse jars, lids and bands.
Place the jars and a stainless steel funnel on a clean baking sheet in a 225F oven for 10 minutes or until you need them.
Boil the lids in a small saucepan of water for at least 5 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave them in that water until needed.
Use a ½ cup measure and funnel to fill each jar with hot relish, leaving ½ inch headspace in the jar.
Cover with the lids and screw the bands on firmly.
Place all the jars in the canning water bath, bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.
Remove from the canner to a rack and let cool completely.
Check the seal and store in a cool dark place for up to one year.
3 – Zucchini Corn Chowder
This chowder uses leftover corn on the cob and your abundance of zucchini. When you have a few extra ears of corn, slice the kernels off the cob, place them in small baggies in the freezer and add them to chowders like this or batches of chile all fall and winter.
Tip: Ramp up the protein in this chowder by adding salmon or prawns. Ramp up the spice profile by adding a Tablespoon of Sambal Olek.
4 oz of diced bacon
1 cup finely sliced leeks (wash well and use only the white part)
1/c cup diced celery
4 diced new potatoes
water to cover
2 diced (unpeeled) zucchini (about 3 cups)
1 cup of frozen leftover corn on the cob niblets
1 cup of half and half cream
½ cup finely sliced green onion
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat and add the bacon, cooking until it is crisp then add the leek and celery and sauté until tender.
Add the potatoes and enough water to cover the contents, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender – about 10 minutes.
Add the corn and zucchini and cook until tender – about 5 minutes.
Add the cream and stir.
Serve with sliced green onion on top and salt and pepper to taste.
4 – Zucchini Fritters
Time: 30 minutes Yield: 40 tasty little snacks.
These gluten-free goodies are easy to make. The first time I had them was in Kerala in South India. People always talk about “curry” as the quintessential Indian food, but snack foods or “chaat” like this are every bit as popular. These will make you love zucchini for sure.
2 (unpeeled) zucchini (about 8 to 10 inches in length)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cups chana flour, sifted into a bowl
Tips: Sifting the chana flour will produce a smooth batter.
¾ cup water
1 Tablespoon finely cut coriander leaves
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Garlic Paste
1 teaspoon Ginger Paste
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 onion, divided in quarters and thinly sliced across
1 finely diced jalapeño
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Oil for deep-frying
Cut the zucchini into match stick size pieces, place in a bowl, sprinkle with the 1 teaspoon of salt and leave for 30 minutes. Place in a sieve, rinse with cold water and then squeeze dry with paper towel and set aside.
Whisk the chana flour and water to form a thick pancake-like batter.
Stir in the coriander leaves, turmeric, cumin, garlic and ginger pastes, black pepper and salt and set aside for a few minutes.
Stir in the zucchini, onion and jalapeño – adjusting the moisture with a few additional drops of water so the mixture has the consistency of a thick cake batter.
Stir in the baking powder just before you are ready to start frying.
Heat the oil in a wok or deep fryer set to 375°F.
Tip: If you don’t have a thermometer, it is ready when a drop of water sizzles immediately when splashed in the oil.
Add 1 tablespoon of the hot deep fryer oil to the fritter batter and mix thoroughly but gently just before frying the mixture by the dropped tablespoon.
Fry 8 to 10 fritters at a time and cook until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel lined baking tray.
Enjoy with Coriander Chutney or Raita.
5 – Parmesan Zucchini Slices
3 – 4 (unpeeled) zucchini, sliced in ¼ inch slices
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Places the zucchini slices on a parchment-lined baking tray.
Grate parmesan cheese on top.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake until golden brown and crispy (about 15 – 20 minutes).
Enjoy as a side dish with grilled meats.
6 – Mediterranean Grilled Vegetables
2 (unpeeled) zucchini – cut in half crosswise and sliced lengthwise into quarters
1 red bell pepper cut in lengthwise slices
1 red onion, cut in lengthwise slices
2 portabello mushrooms, veins removed and cut in lengthwise slices
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
4 Tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.
Place all the prepped vegetables in a glass bowl and coat with the lemon zest, juice, balsamic and olive oil.
Grill in a basket on high heat, stirring as needed to prevent burning, for about 5 – 10 minutes.
Transfer to a serving platter and season with salt and pepper.
8 – Karen’s Hot Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce
This makes a huge batch of sauce and it freezes beautifully. It is a bit of work but you’ll reap the rewards with three or four meals you can pull out of the freezer as you need to.
2 ½ lbs Hot Italian sausage
1Tablespoon olive oil
2 roughly chopped onions
3-4 cloves minced garlic
2 large green bell peppers chopped into bite sized pieces
1 large yellow bell pepper chopped as above
30-40 mushrooms, halved
2 small (unpeeled) zucchini chopped into bite size pieces
2 – 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes
1 – 13 oz can of tomato paste
1 jar tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
3 – 4 bay leaves
1 package frozen chopped spinach
Remove the meat from the sausage casings and brown it in a non-stick skillet, breaking the meat up as it cooks.
Drain the fat from pan and put the meat on a plate between layers of paper towel to squeeze the remaining fat from the meat. Set the meat aside.
Heat the oil in a large stockpot and add the onions. Cook until translucent, add the garlic and cook just until it becomes fragrant about 30 seconds to one minute.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a slow steady simmer for two to three hours.
Serve over any type of pasta.
Freeze leftovers in meal-sized portions.
Tip: This meat sauce can also be used as a base for lasagna as it is or if you add a few different cans of drained and rinsed beans and some chile powder it can also become a great chile.
9 – Very Corny Zucchini Muffins
These are a savoury treat to enjoy with chilli, chowders, soups and frittatas.
1½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cane sugar
2 large eggs
1¼ cups skim milk
½ cup grated zucchini
½ cup diced bell pepper
1 diced jalapeño (optional)
¾ cup creamed corn
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until they are just mixed and moist (over stirring causes tough muffins).
Spoon the mixture into lined or non-stick muffin tins.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes
Cool in the muffin tins for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to finish cooling or serve while still warm.
Tip: a little grated Gouda or cheddar on top is a nice variation.
10 – Fun Zucchini Fries – A new fry for you to try.
½ cup breadcrumbs
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried parsley
3 medium zucchini
¼ cup milk
Preheat the oven to 400F
Place the bread crumbs, cheese, garlic powder ,oregano, basil, parsley in a bowl and stir well to combine.
Cut the zucchini into thirds and then each third into quarters or eighths lengthwise.
Beat the egg and milk together and dip the zucchini into the egg mixture followed by the bowl of bread mixture.
Repeat until all pieces are coated, placing them on a parchment lined baking tray as you go.
Bake for 15 minutes or until crispy.
Zucchini or otherwise, when it comes to food we need to savour it all. I’ll leave the final word on food waste to HBO’s John Oliver. He always nails it.