Made in the Shade

I was late dashing out for my morning walk today. That’s a bit of a problem given our summer temps and it also dictates my walking path. I choose shade.IMG_3804

Our neighborhood has a well traveled 1800 step path and on a morning like this, I’ll round it three or four times rather than venturing out where the scorching fingers of the AZ sun might grasp me. I’m not alone in my desire. As many of our local cities and towns are updating their general plans, they are focusing on the attributes of livability. Those attributes include the development of amenities such as parks and recreation, interconnected neighborhoods,and improved air quality and yes, shade. The creation of shade is emerging as a key issue in order to keep our neighborhoods more walkable, our features accessible year-round and as a component to enhance our overall health.

Shade can be created in many ways such as umbrellas, awnings and sails but there are aesthetic and environmental benefits to planting shade trees. The laundry list of possible benefits from increasing the number of shade trees includes improved air quality, noise absorption, reduction of ambient heat and a possibility of increasing property values.

Native Americans have known about the value of shade for centuries and took it down to a fundamental level in their agriculture by planting what is known as the Three Sisters.  The three sisters; corn, beans and squash all work together. Corn provides a stalk for the beans to grow up, beans add nitrogen to the soil necessary for the corn and the squash provides a shade structure for the earth that helps the soil retain moisture. It’s a dense method of gardening that is sometimes hard for those who are accustomed to orderly rows.

Here, it is time of year when that third sister seems unstoppable. In fact, in certain neighborhoods, overzealous planters are said to be looking for any outlet to dispose of their excess zucchini including unlocked cars. Nancy Vienneau at Good Food Matters always has terrific ideas and I had nearly everything on hand for these delicious treats. If you haven’t begun following Nancy’s blog, do so now and if you haven’t purchased her terrific Community Potluck cookbook, do it here.

Zucchini Faux-Crab Cakes
modified from this recipe by Nancy Vienneau
Yields 12 cakes


  • 4 cups grated zucchini
  • Salt
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (I had a bag of TJ’s organic on hand)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced–use entire scallion
  • 1 cup small diced Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 tsp Wye River (Nancy uses Old Bay) seasoning
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 2 Tbs plain Greek yogurt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • vegetable oil for frying

Place grated zucchini in a colander; sprinkle lightly with salt, allow to stand for 30 minutes,draining. Squeeze by hand to remove additional liquid – it should be fairly dry. Place zucchini, bread crumbs, and all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix well by hand. Form into 12 patties the size of crab cakes. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet or on a griddle, and cook patties on both sides, browning well. Drain on paper towel.

Vegan red topping

  • 10 grape tomatoes
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1 hot red cherry pepper
  • sea salt

Put all of the ingredients in a high speed mixer and blend until smooth.

This is a terrific lunch or light dinner item and the variations are really endless. Enjoy them in the shade.

What are your thoughts about the incorporation of shade into plans to make urban areas more livable?

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  1. I have zucchini on my grocery list for tomorrow ! That looks very good – anxious to try it.

    Virtual hugs,


  2. Sounds delicious. I think these babies should stand on their own, not be called faux anything. I recall years ago when we were urged to eat carob as faux chocolate. I think carob is OK, but it isn’t chocolate. Now we learn that chocolate is really very healthy.

    • You’re right Carolyn. When Nancy blogged about these, she had done them at a dinner party for a guest who was vegetarian – everyone else wanted them too!

  3. I’ve made zucchini “crab” cakes before ~ very yummy!

    Shade is GOOD.
    Trees are our friends.

    • I’ve been reading a lot about trees Nancy. Does your community have them in common areas?

  4. I think it’s a great idea. We have a Cape Ash tree that will be planted on our sidewalk to provide shade 🙂

    • I don’t know Cape Ash but assume it’s the same family as our Ash. Shade is just one benefit – there’s also cleaner air, cooling principles, etc..

  5. That’s really interesting about the three sisters. I have never heard of those three working together before but I think that sort of farming truly makes sense. I know you must be finding the heat a challenge, but I wouldn’t mind swapping with you – it’s really cold here on Oz xx

    • I’ve about had my fill of heat Charlie. I’m in Rome right now and the sweltering temps with humidity really don’t do much for me.

  6. I love sunshine, but I need shade and trees are the best. They also freshen the air and look lovely in the breeze…

    • I love the way they are on the Roman boulevards – don’t you? Trees really make a difference in how we perceive the world (I’m reading and learning so much about this right now).

  7. NICE! I love this new approach and thanks for the topping recipe, too!

  8. I would think the three would be a great combo nutritionally too–corn + beans = complete protein, and if you swap the zucchini for a winter squash you’d have an orange vegetable. Yes, I am already tired of zucchini, though I should remind myself I ran out of my winter supply for muffins last year.

    • I also just saw a recipe for some terrific looking zucchini meatless balls that I am dying to try. Are you visiting AZ this fall?

      • We debated about driving Hilary down to school. Then we realized if she can’t get her things there on a plane she won’t get them back ;-). Possibly in spring though–I’ll let you know. How is college prep going for your son?

  9. Delicious-looking recipe! I’m going to make it. I pinned it on my Vegan Food Board with a link to your post. Thanks for the info on the Three Sisters. I wish I would have planted zucchini this year. I have too much shade in my yard, although I enjoy walking under the trees.

    • The patties themselves have egg so not quite vegan but a seasoned cook can figure out how to work around that. I’m looking forward to a quick trip to KC in sept.

  10. Hi Tammy–I am woefully late in coming to this post. As always, I appreciate your focus on what makes our lives healthier all around. And, in particular, thanks for the shout-out for my zucchini cakes, cookbook, and blog. You’re the best!

    • You deserve it – all of my favorite things; good food, good writing and community building!

  11. I happen to,have a lot of fresh yellow & green zucchinis! Love this tasty Yummy recipe!

  12. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef

     /  August 6, 2015

    I agree with Carolyn, no faux anything where these are concerned. I love everything about them. The sauce sounds delicious too!

    • Thanks Maureen. Recipes with deep zucchini needs were important during that timeframe. AND, these are so tasty.

  13. I love your faux crab cakes a lot! I will make them today! 🙂 Yummmm!

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