I'm a waste not-want not kind of lady. Once I know the edible parts of a plant, they become a part of my regular cooking without the slightest hesitation. I especially love greens – you know, fresh spinach, chard, kale, collards, the tops of root crops, 'wild' greens – I love to mix them for a whole new taste, choosing and changing the fresh herbs that add even more variety to my meals. Keeping a garden increases your greens choices way beyond those available to supermarket shoppers. Oh, yes. It's rather sad that we've become so used to buying just the right vegetables and fruit at the market, perfect in size and color, without any of the rest of the plant attached, that we lose sight of just how much food is actually being thrown away to bring us those perfect specimens.
Today's recipe is one that uses all of the summer squash plant to make a fabulous soup. I know you've heard about frying stuffed squash blossoms but did you know that you can use the young and middle-sized squash leaves for stuffing, just like grape leaves? They combine well with other greens, as well, to make a very healthy side dish. You can use the older larger leaves, too, but they are tough and require some serious long-time cooking before they'll get tender enough to enjoy. Don't worry about the scratchiness of the underside of the leaves. The cooking makes that disappear.
And, so it is with the hollow stems. This picture shows what goes on beneath that canopy of gorgeous leaves. Bees are doing their thing and some judicious pruning of those stems will keep this plant producing for quite some time. The stems are firm and a bit scratchy with prickles along the string lines but, once you remove the strings (just as you would from pole beans and celery), they are delicious when stuffed and baked. [NOTE: I have had very little success in freezing stems for later use. They must be eaten at time of picking. If any one has been able to store the stems by freezing, please share how you did it.]
For a different crudetés tray, surprise your guests with raw stems cut in two-inch tubes for dipping or filled with your favorite cheese recipe. They have the crunch of celery and are the perfect finger food.
Summer Squash Swiss Chard Soup
6 large summer squash leaves, deveined and chopped
6 summer squash stems, strings removed and chopped
1 small patty pan squash, shredded
1 small zucchini squash, shredded
1 small yellow summer squash, shredded
15 large Swiss chard leaves, stems removed and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can chicken broth, plus 1 can water
2 T butter
1 T fresh basil, chopped
1 T fresh oregano, chopped
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 T fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh stevia, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat solar oven to 225°F 3 quart stock pot
- Prepare stems by removing strings, bottom to top; then, chop. Use a sharp knife to remove cleaned squash leaves from larger veins. Roll leaf and chop crosswise; place in pot.
- Clean and chop chard stems and leaves. Add to pot. (It's not necessary to remove chard leaf from veins.)
- Chop medium onion and add to pot.
- Remove stem and blossom ends from zucchini, yellow, and patty pan squashes. Do not skin. Shred and add to pot.
- Finely chop herbs; mix with salt and pepper; add to pot.
- In tempered measuring cup, bring chicken broth and water to a boil; pour over contents of stock pot. Cover and place in solar oven for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Vegetables should be very tender.
- Remove from oven and let cool enough to stop bubbling. Puree in blender/food processor in small amounts; return to pan and heat to serving temperature.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream, yogurt, or a pat of butter. This is truly a delicious soup and a great way to start a meal. Now that you know at least one recipe that uses the whole squash plant, thin your plants to keep them producing and feed your family, while waiting for the smaller squashes to grow to size.