Plant Italian striped zucchini, and friends will happily share the bounty

June 15, 2022

It is warm, sunny and time for summer squash, a popular gardening choice that is notorious for overproduction.

A shopper left a zucchini in her car while she went shopping, and when she returned, someone had broken into her car and left three more.

Yet if you plant the right variety, you will have something worth sharing. Zucchini is the king of summer squash, and the best of the best is a classic, slightly ribbed, lightly striped squash called Zucchini Striato d'Italia or Italian striped zucchini (Cucurbita pepo).

This is a super-productive variety that can easily yield 12 pounds of squash per season. Striato d'Italia has a sweet, rich, full flavor so it can be enjoyed plain or just lightly seasoned. The cylindrical squash are best eaten when under 9 inches long.

Striato d'Italia grows as a compact bush that tolerates scorching summer heat and the cooler nights of early autumn.

Plant all zucchini seeds after the last spring frost, when the ground has really warmed up. Sow four seeds 1-inch deep in hills, or raised mounds of earth, which warm up quicker than flat land and provide better drainage.

If you let each cluster of seeds grow in each hill, this will increase pollination. Leave two to three feet between hills in rows four feet apart. The best soil pH for zucchini, like many vegetables, is 6.5 to 7. Soil with this pH makes important nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K on fertilizer labels) most usable to the plants.

Plant flowers such as marigolds and nasturtiums nearby to act as "trap crops,” meaning plants that lure pests from your real crops. These two flowers will help keep flea beetles and aphids off the zucchini plants, and nasturtiums will also discourage squash vine borers. Other good companion plants for zucchini include dill, peppermint, oregano, lemon balm and parsley.

Zucchinis have more potassium than bananas, and are low in sodium and saturated fat, with very little cholesterol. They are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, protein, vitamin A, copper, thiamine, niacin and phosphorus. Zucchini helps digestion, lowers blood sugar levels, supports healthy circulation and a healthy heart, can improve eye health, and even aids your adrenal and thyroid function.

Usually, zucchini is cooked unpeeled. If you are going to fry zucchini, first pat down the slices with a towel to release some of the moisture. You can eat zucchini raw by slicing or shredding it into salads. Larger zucchini can be made into muffins, breads or even cookies.

All squash is insect-pollinated, so try to encourage bees in your garden. Unpollinated zucchini may experience fruit abortion, where the fruit begins to form, then dries out or simply rots. You can hand-pollinate squash blossoms using an artist’s brush to move pollen from male flowers to female flowers.

For summer squash that isn't bland or watery, plant the most popular variety in Italy, Striato d'Italia. You will have pounds of tasty squash to fry, grill, puree, sauté and bake. No need to break into cars to get rid of them.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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