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Featuring the Zucchini with a Supporting Cast

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Cooks everywhere are enjoying the fruits (and vegetables!) from their bounties as members of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs. For a monetary subscription, and sometimes a time commitment of a few hours a month, CSA members enjoy regular allotments of fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and even flowers that are delivered to a central neighborhood depot immediately upon harvest. My neighbor’s early spring deliveries included baby lettuces, pea shoots, scallions, and herbs. As of now, he is receiving boxes of cherry tomatoes, green beans, and — drum roll — zucchini!

zucchini.jpgRestaurant chefs as well are relying on direct contact with local farmers, gardeners, and foragers for the freshest and most reliable sourcing of their raw ingredients. With freight costs soaring and the emergence of local farms rising, it only makes sense to support local produce growers to keep prices down and the local economy stable. We're seeing increased appreciation of CSA’s in both the home and commercial kitchen. This is a good thing.

But I digress. Let’s get back to those zucchinis. My neighbor lamented that there were just so many zucchini breads that he was willing to make. After he gifted me with a few of the giant variety of the ubiquitous squash, we sat down and researched dozens of recipes for those darn zucchinis. Here’s a short list: curried zucchini soup; cream of zucchini and fennel soup; zucchini fritters with a roasted garlic aioli; stuffed zucchini (in lieu of stuffed peppers); fried zucchini sticks and blossoms (yes, the CSA delivery included the blossoms); zucchini pancakes; zucchini, tomato, and scallion quiche; Zuccaghetti (Thank You, food52!); ratatouille; quinoa or couscous salad with zucchini, sultanas, and mint; zucchini and lemon cookies… you get the idea.

After our brainstorming session, I put on my product developer thinking cap. While many home cooks would love to plow through the list of zucchini recipes, how many are actually willing to spend hours in the kitchen when their time is precious, or the weather is either too hot for cooking or too beautiful to spend hours in the kitchen? This is where romance copy and store merchandising come into play.

Many supermarkets and specialty and natural foods chains publish flyers and blogs directed at marketing their line of frozen and shelf stable items. Why not seize the harvest and give consumers ideas and ways of using that zucchini? Publish a quinoa or couscous recipe that includes your private label grains line, or your best-selling banana bread mix with room for that magic ingredient – zucchini! Pull your frozen piecrust out and give your customers a nice recipe for that quiche. Better yet, demo the zucchini pancakes and fritters using your private label pancake mix! Place a huge bushel of zucchinis at the center of a display with all manner of supporting products, and provide recipe cards within easy reach.

Retailers – make it easy for your customers to eat an overabundance of veggies while increasing your sales of frozen and dry mix items over the summer months. Just get creative with merchandising and marketing!

[Photo credit: Lori Handelman]

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