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Stories from the valley

A Season in Our Gardens – Squash Apocalypse

Contributed by Tim Johnson

Contributed by Paul Buttner

Contributed by Luke Matthews

Like zombies – they just keep coming. What’s worse, there are few and fewer friends to help stem the onslaught of – ZUCCHINNI!

We’ve always said the best zucchini of the season is the first one. That day is long past and the plants are just starting to warm up. Most of us are starting to realize we once again over planted zucchini and other summer squash. With offices closed and neighbors staying far apart, there are fewer victims to share with. 

This week’s blog will feature our favorite ways to cook these green monsters that seem to appear every day ready for harvest!

Large Rural Garden – Tim Johnson, President & CEO

Ann and I are of the view that you pick the summer squash small and eat them immediately. That means simple preparations that focus on volume. Just squash and a few other ingredients because there will be more tomorrow!

Here’s one of our favorite recipes. 

sauteed summer squashSautéed Summer Squash with Caramelized Onions and Garlic – 20 minutes


  • 2-3 small zucchini or yellow squash, cut into slices
  • ½ yellow onion sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt or other coarse salt


  1. Heat the olive oil in your favorite pan over medium heat
  2. Add onions and garlic, hit with a good pinch of salt and sauté on medium-low heat 5-10 minutes until onions are translucent
  3. Add sliced squash, another good pinch of salt, flip to ensure even cooking. You are done when onions and garlic are caramelized and squash starts to brown slightly (10 min)

Serve as a side dish or over rice as the main dish. The sweet caramelized onions and garlic are perfect compliments to squash.

Diverse Urban Garden – Luke Mathews, Wildlife Program Manager

My go-to recipe for zucchini/summer squash is fritters. These are great because they can be eaten with breakfast, lunch, or dinner; and if you cook too many they are good reheated in a toaster oven. I’ve also found that grated zucchini freezes well. Once you reach the point where you just can’t eat any more simply grate, squeeze out the water, and vacuum seal them. 

Zucchini/Summer Squash Fritters with Garlic YogurtZucchini/Summer Squash Fritters with Garlic Yogurt – 25 minutes


  • 2 large zucchini or 5-6 small summer squash (grated)
  • ½ yellow onion finely diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup flower
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • Course ground pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for sautéing 

Dipping Sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic finely diced
  • Salt to taste


  1. Mix yogurt, garlic, and salt together in a bowl and set aside. 
  2. Grate the zucchini and squeeze out as much water as possible (used your hands or cheese cloth), mix together with all the remaining ingredients together. 
  3. Heat the olive oil in your largest pan over medium/high heat.
  4. Add scoops of the zucchini mixture to the pan and spread into 2 inch diameter rounds.
  5. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side. The fritters are done once they are golden brown on both sides. 
  6. Transfer to a paper towel or cooling rack then add more oil and mixture to the pan.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce as a side dish or an appetizer.

New Garden – Paul Buttner, Environmental Affairs Manager

Just like my fellow co-workers, I also planted way too much squash.  They also took over one whole corner of my garden and turned it into a jungle.  I finally took the machete to it last weekend to discover squash I hadn’t even seen yet due to the many layers of giant photosynthesizing squash leaves that were there… a lot of them!

Given my personal squash apocalypse, I found the ultimate zucchini-disposal recipe called Disappearing Zucchini Orzo!

dish of "disappearing orzo"Here’s how it goes:


  • Orzo pasta (3/4 cup)
  • Onion (1, chopped)
  • Garlic to taste (I pressed mine)
  • Zucchini (3 large suckers!)
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup, grated)


  1. Bring about six cups of water or chicken broth to a boil and add orzo pasta. 
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions. 
  3. Use a cheese grater to shred zucchini and sauté it with onion and garlic until lightly golden. 
  4. Add spices to zucchini mixture, stir thoroughly, and the remove mixture from heat.
  5. Combine the cheese and cooked orzo. 
  6. Salt to taste. 
  7. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Now, those are the official cooking instructions from someone who really knows how to cook.  That’s not me!  I’m not so constrained by such advanced cooking skills and I always do my own thing.  Luckily, this dish really lets you do whatever you want to it.  I used mostly butter and only a small amount of olive oil to sauté.  I added fresh rosemary, basil and lemon grass from my garden.  I sprinkled in some paprika, sage and course ground pepper.  And finally, I violated all the rules of the universe by eating it nice and hot because I’m not generally a cold pasta dish fan.

It was awesome!  Go give it a test drive and let me know what you think.  ☺