I suspect that by this time of year many of you are starting to look for creative ways to eat zucchini. It is amazing that just a few thriving summer squash plants can produce SO MUCH food.
At this time of year folks start leaving bags of zucchini on front steps and if you turn your back you have giant marrows in your garden!
I have two recipes to share to help you serve up the season! But first I'd like to share a little more about the zucchini variety we have been growing and selling for many years now. Dark Star is a modern open pollinated variety bred through a process known as 'particpatory plant breeding'.
This is a farmer centric type of plant breeding where breeders partner with farmers to help develop varieties suited to real world conditions. In the case of Dark Star zucchini, farmer Bill Reynolds of Eel River Produce in Humboldt county- northern CA- partnered with the Organic Seed Alliance and breeder Dr. John Navazio to develop a zucchini with excellent flavor, a wide open bush habit, drought tolerance and uniform dark green fruits.
The parent varieties of Dark Star were the hybrid Raven and the open pollinated Black Beauty. After 6 years of intentional selection the new variety of Dark Star was isolated and stabilized. It is truly a variety developed under organic conditions for organic farmers.
One really interesting thing about this variety is that it was selected under dry farming conditions. The farm it was bred on has a very shallow water table given its proximity to the Eel River. By default, as the best plants were selected they also had the most vigorous root systems capable of diving deep for water sources.
The above squash plant self seeded on in our dry fire break and proceeded to thrive and fruit!
I'm not suggesting you try and dry farm your zucchini if you live in Redding, CA- but the drought tolerant history of this variety may give it an advantage over others. Sometimes hardiness for heat can also mean hardiness for cold temps.
For many years Bill produced seed exclusively to be grown for the fruits in Baja during the winters. The grower in Baja sold the fruits back to the US to line the grocery store shelves during the winter months. In 2011, frost hit Baja by suprise and killed off most of the zucchini production, except the huge field of Dark Star which seemed to have just a degree or two more frost hardiness than other varieties at the time!
Our experience with this variety dates back to 2014. I had been growing and selling Black Beauty seed up to that point. Then as I became more involved with the larger seed community revolving around the Organic Seed Alliance I became aware of Dark Star and wanted to support independent breeding work.
This is the bi-annual pile of Dark Star waiting to be split opened and scooped of seeds!
Now we grow this variety about every two years and Dark Star is our number one selling variety on our website and a staple we stock on seed racks from Portland to San Francisco. Growing open pollinated varieties for seed does require 'constant vigilance'! (yes that is a Harry Potter reference since we are reading book 4 aloud with the kids right now 😀)
By constant vilgilance I mean careful selection. When growing this for seed I always end up pulling out 15-30% of the plants. We select the plants mainly for the open habit they are known for but also look for off color or mishapen fruits. If a plant seems too dense, meaning too many leafy branches, we will yank it out to keep the gene pool clean.
We also walk the fields just as the first fruits have set. At this time I look for off type fruits. If any are found, then ALL the fruits are picked, the offending plant removed, and we save seed from the second set of fruits. On average we save seed from 100-200 plants when growing this variety and expect to harvest about 10 lbs of seed.
Now for those recipes I promised! Follow the links below to our website for two great recipes that will help you chew through your zucchini harvest!
Have a great weekend and stay cool! Plus, more Dark Star photos below.