Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Lebanese flavour

Here in Australia, and in my part of Sydney in particular, we have a sizeable Lebanese community, and they're wonderful, hard-working people. As is the case with many established Anglo Aussies (like myself) and migrant communities (such as the Lebanese) where we first get to know a bit about each other is in our shops and restaurants. 

Pam and I love Lebanese cuisine. As well as their famous kebabs and koftas, their many vegetable dishes are superb. Our supermarkets always have in stock big piles of Lebanese cucumbers, Lebanese eggplant and Lebanese zucchini. These vegies aren't just sold to people whose family's roots are in Lebanon. Everybody buys them, and that's because the Lebanese people have bred over the centuries a wide range of vegetables that presumably suit both their climate and their palates. 

And so this year I'm having a go at growing the little pale green Lebanese zucchini, and so far the results have been delicious. I prefer them to the prolific, larger, dark green 'Blackjack' zucchini which I have grown here in previous years.

Here's two zucchinis with the flowers attached
picked this morning. These aren't as prolific
in production as Blackjacks, but they keep
well. So, after washing and drying, I pop them
in a plastic container. After a few days we
have enough for a delicious side dish.

Here's the plants in the garden, with the mirror
on the shed wall making the plot look a bit
bigger. And no, they are not a special variety
with variegated foliage! Sad to say, they have
powdery mildew on the leaves, and nothing I
am doing is really helping much at all.
The powdery mildew is quite aggressive, and though I am
regularly spraying plants with an organic treatment, it doesn't
seem to get rid of existing mildew. All it does is slow its spread
to other zucchini foliage. I'm also careful when watering to
keep water off the foliage and direct it to the roots, so I can't
think of anything else I can do.

This is the product I am using. eco-fungicide.
It's organic, a powder that you mix up in a
spray bottle and spray all over the foliage, on
top and on the underside. It's based on
potassium bicarbonate.
In previous years I've tried the other well-known organic treatment of milk sprays, and they were even poorer in performance than the eco-fungicide. Pictured below is the healthy foliage of the other Lebanese zucchini plants which haven't yet succumbed to the powdery mildew. This is a much better result with the eco-fungicide than anything I ever achieved with milk sprays, so I am sticking to the eco-fungicide.

There's one or two faint spots of mildew on the
leaf on the right, but the foliage still looks good.
The good news is that the powdery mildew, while it slowly harms the foliage and the plant, isn't instant death or anything like that. The foliage on one plant has looked crappy for a few weeks now and the plant is cropping away happily. So mostly the powdery mildew weakens the plants, probably brings the cropping to an early end, and certainly looks very dodgy!

I've always said that the baby little zucchinis you get attached
to zucchini flowers in restaurants and supermarkets have a
much better flavour than the fully grown zucchinis that are
sold without (the short-lived) flowers. Well, it's the same with
the small Lebanese zucchinis. These never grow to any great
size anyway, and they are best harvested when only 3-4 inches
(75-100mm) long, and they taste great, whether you steam
them, fry them or cook them any which way. 


Crooked Cottage said...

I've never thought to pick my zucchinis at that small stage, but I may have to try it! I have been very pleased this year, last year I lost all my zucchinis to powdery mildew but this year (touch wood) there has been no sign of it. Mind you it seems more like luck of the draw than anything I have actually done differently. Thanks for showcasing a different variation of the old favourites!

Sarina said...

Do not confuse the natural silvery striations on some zucchini leaves with mildew. The silvery-white markings follow the veins and the mildew appears in random spots, normally on older, shaded or ill-ventilated leaves. I would say most of the markings are natural, except on photo 4. Hope this helps.

KL said...

It's very interesting to see the zucchinis with the flowers still attached. I don't remember if my zucchinis still have the flowers attached when they are 3-4 inches long. And, your zucchinis looked so wonderful and yummy. Have you tried eating them raw? When they are young, they can be eaten raw and tastes wonderful. I can't wait for my summer to come when I start growing all these again.

Jamie said...

No KL, we haven't tried eating them raw. I like to grate them and turn them into Greek-style zucchini fritters (served with Tzatziki yoghurt dip on the side). Pam also grates them and cooks them in butter with lots of chopped chervil (an aniseedy herb). And we steam them whole, and I like to cut them in half and fry them. And I stuff the flowers with herb-enriched ricotta, then dip them in tempura batter and quickly fry them. Recently Pam lightly steamed them whole, sliced them into rounds and tossed them with cherry tomatoes to make a nice salad. So many ways to enjoy zucchini!

And so we'll have to try them raw soon! The little Lebanese ones do have a great flavour, so they should be nice this way. Thanks for the tip.