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Zucandy: The Healthy Alternative to Fruit Snacks

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Although we gardeners facetiously complain about our abundance of zucchini this time of year, we love the multitude of recipes we can make with it. By now, we have already sautéed it in extra virgin, doused it with soy sauce in stir-fry, and grilled it with asparagus. We’ve tucked it into frittata, spiralized it into zoodles, and baked it into every kind of bread imaginable. We’ve given away truckloads to our friends as well as enemies and anonymously left it on our neighbors’ doorsteps in the dead of night. It’s true what they say; necessity is the mother of invention, and it has always been necessary for me to use up my summer quantum quantity of squash. Going over and beyond the norms, I have tried to use it up in as many fringe recipes as I can, but I believe this is one of my most creative yet. I call it zucandy.

I must admit that I didn’t invent it, but I came across this idea by random experimental accident, what I call REA. I’m not sure where it began, but I found several varying recipes already online; I had to Google to see if it would make me famous. Mine simply calls for mature zucchini, peeled, cored, cut into small pieces, boiled in fruit juice and sugar, and dehydrated. In the beginning, I didn’t have a recipe because, first, I had already begun the experiment before I Googled, and, second, I wouldn’t have been able to follow the recipe anyway. However, by trial and error, a cornucopia of chicken treats, and a good deal of determination, I was able to come up with a recipe for an edible, yummy, fun snack.

During my experiments, I was thinking about how these tasty little gems could be the healthy equivalent of commercial fruit snacks, which contain megadoses of corn syrup, unpronounceable ingredients such as acetylated monoglycerides and scary sounding stuff like malic acid. Yes, we eat this stuff all the time and it is tasty. Our kids can’t seem to get enough of it. But I think there is a better way. And it’s cheap, easy and you get the bonus of using up that seemingly never-ending supply of summer zucchini.

If you decide to try it, you might want to Google “fruit flavored zucchini,” which is what I did. I found everything from using pineapple juice for canning zuc spears, to boiling cut-up pieces in Kool-Aid, but then we’re back to those weird ingredients again. The really cool thing about zucchini is that it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in. I tried a variety of natural fruit juices, adding a drop or two of coordinating food color. I gave my dehydrator away, because the sun works just fine for me, and sun-dried tomatoes does sound better than dehydrator-dried tomatoes, not to mention being easier to say. It takes just about six hours of cost-free energy for a good drying. I flip them about halfway through, just to help speed up the process. When they’re still just a bit tacky, I shake them in a little sugar for a nice finished appearance.

I get excited every summer now, just leaving those little zucs out there on the vine to mature into the dreaded firewood size. Thomas Edison took about a thousand tries before he perfected the light bulb. Hmmm…one thousand zucchini; not a problem. ■

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This basic recipe screams for oodles of experimentation. Hopefully you will have a large crop to play with!

4 cups mature zucchini, cored, peeled, cut into 1″ x ½” pieces
1 cup fruit juice
½ cup sugar
Food coloring if desired

Add food coloring to juice and sugar, mix well and then add zucchini. Boil about 25 minutes over medium heat until transparent and juice thickens, being careful not to scorch. Add water if necessary. Drain and dry on paper towels. Spread on parchment-lined cookie sheets to dry in sun, or follow directions for dehydrator. Shake in sugar, or 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar and 1 T cornstarch, to keep from sticking. Note: this recipe is young- and old-kid tested and approved.