The yearning for zucchini recipes is an annual event, like the perpetual zest for fall clothing. And it strikes just about this time of year, when the home gardener tiptoes through his dewy garden and realizes that he has, yet again, planted too many zucchini seeds.

So to stem the panic, below are a few tips on how to handle and elegantly dispose of the mighty green giant.

When ready to pick, the vegetable should be light green or yellow-flecked and slightly pliable. The best length for a zucchini is said to be between 3 and 6 inches. If the gourd has grown bigger and the skin has become tough, scoop out the flesh to use in soups and sauces. Monster squash are best lugged to the compost heap.

Zucchini are composed mainly of water and can become a soggy mess when prepared. The best remedy is to salt or blanch them before using. The rule of thumb is to blanch whole squash and salt grated or sliced squash.

For your files, note that one pound of zucchini (3 medium, about 7 inches) equals 4 cups grated, 2 cups salted and squeezed, 3 1/2 cups sliced or chunked, or about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups mashed.

To store, keep zucchini in a loose plastic bag in the refrigerator for no longer than a week. It is possible to freeze your bounty of zucchini but you must blanch it and drain well before packaging.

Best of all, one cooked cupful of the squash contains only 29 calories and a whopping 820 units of vitamin A.

Try some of the suggestions below offered by Marian Morash in her "The Victory Garden Cookbook" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982):

Use oversized squashes as containers. Brush with a lemon-oil mixture and fill with salads or crudite's, or blanch until barely tender and fill with a hot mixture.

Decorate a salad with zucchini peel. Run a lemon zester down the sides of a zucchini to form long, thin threads.

Julienne zucchini for a crudite's platter or grate directly into salads.

Layer blanched zucchini alternately with chopped onion cooked with buttered bread crumbs. Repeat two or three times and top with butter. Heat in a 350-degree oven until hot and bubbly.

If using a microwave oven, remember that 1 pound whole squash or chunks placed in a covered pan with 3 tablespoons water will cook tender in 4 to 6 minutes.

Saute' until crisp and add to omelets or fritatas.

Chop raw zucchini and add to tuna fish salad for texture.

Saute' 1 cup chopped onion and 1 mashed garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil for 5 minutes. Add a pound of unpeeled, thinly sliced zucchini and saute' for 1 minute. Add a 10-ounce can of tomatoes and oregano to taste and simmer for 10 minutes.

For an unusual taste sensation try the recipe below -- you will be surprised at the hearty flavor.

Express Lane list: chili powder, cheddar or monterey jack cheese, zucchini, onion, cloves, hot pepper, tortillas, tomatoes


4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 cups milk

2 cups grated cheddar or monterey jack cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

6 cups diced zucchini

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups diced onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh hot pepper or to taste

19 tortillas

3 cups diced tomatoes

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour and chili powder to make a thick paste. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring well after each addition to prevent lumps. Add the cheese and heat gently until it is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Steam the squash until just tender, about 5 minutes.

In a saute' pan, heat the oil and saute' the onion, garlic and hot peppers until limp, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the squash and 2/3 of the sauce. Toss to coat.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spoon some filling onto each tortilla and roll like a crepe. Place seam side down in the baking dish. Spoon the extra sauce on top and sprinkle with the tomatoes. Bake the enchiladas for 30 minutes, or until hot, in a 400-degree oven. Serve immediately. From "Joy of Gardening Cookbook," by Janet Ballantyne (Garden Way, 1984)