Hayward Zucchini Festival 2013
For 31 years now, the third weekend of August has been the time of the Hayward Zucchini Festival. What we saw today was entertaining, and what we tasted was delicious. It was a little tricky finding our way but once we got to the secured parking lot on Bohannon Middle School’s grass playing field, we spent hours wandering around Kennedy Park enjoying the festival. From rides and carnival games with hermit crabs for prizes, to jewelry vendors and all kinds of foods, it was easy to spend the day here, especially when the weather was as beautiful as it was.
As the zucchini capital of California, Hayward would be remiss not to honor the farmers in the community, rural and urban alike. Entries are accepted through the second day for six different categories of competition, from weight to color variation.
We entered Kennedy Park on the far corner from all the hot food stands and trucks, so we got to walk around and tour the grounds before finding our way to Sweet Delights of Stockton. They didn’t disappoint with this alternative quesadilla, as cheese and zucchini were all it took for a savory sensation. The gooey cheese is the hallmark of a good quesadilla, but the fresh vegetables made all the difference.
From August’s neighborhood of her youth, California Corn Roast came from Grass Valley and got a big line forming for their bacon-wrapped hot dogs with zucchini. Hebrew National dogs and thick spears of zucchini sat in a lightly grilled bun piled with grilled onions. Condiments were available if wanted, but we liked it just as it was. The sweet onions juxtaposed the savory, salty kick of the meats, while the zucchini provided an earthiness that brought everything together. There’s nothing too fancy about this, but if you like zucchini, this is sure to please.
Many groups came out today selling goods as fundraisers. The Pentecostals of Hayward drew us in with their selection of muffins, all zucchini based but with variety among them. Regular, with raisins, with raisins and nuts, and with chocolate, we didn’t think there could be so many types of zucchini breads! Apparently this is a big deal for the church’s community, because they even put together a thick cookbook of zucchini dishes. We bought a copy, and we’re curious to see how many tasty zucchini recipes fill the pages.
Michelle’s Golden Brown Breads can be found at the farmers’ market on Sundays at Jack London Square in Oakland. Today Michelle came with a selection of zucchini bread loafs. We chose the butterscotch version, with butterscotch visible on top and also marbled through the bread. Dense, moist, and rich, it’s great by itself but we’re imagining it a la mode.
Right around when we thought there couldn’t be any more sweet zucchini goods, Bella’s House of Sweets came into view. After trying four of the cupcakes and drooling over the mini macarons, we might have to visit the San Leandro bakery sooner than later. We sampled red velvet, double chocolate, carrot cake, and zucchini cupcakes, all light in texture yet deeply flavorful. The zucchini cupcake in particular was all we could hope for in zucchini bread: mildly sweet, spiced with earthy tones, topped with cream cheese frosting, and a light caramel drizzle.
Once we ordered two of four zucchini-based items at the Siva Indian Food Services truck, August sat down with one of the daughters of the family business for a henna tattoo. It was rough keeping still for 30 minutes for it to dry, but let’s hope it’s worth it and the students at school approve!
There were so many stands with deep fried zucchini, but Siva’s zucchini pakoras ranked among the best. A light but crunchy breading had surprisingly little grease, and it was seasoned well so that it didn’t need an extra sprinkling of salt out of the fryer. A thin, dip-like hummus was a nice change from ranch, which was what every other food stand had to offer with their deep fried zucchini.
When we see lamb we get it, and Siva’s curry with lamb and zucchini was no exception. We chatted with the matriarch and she said that zucchini was not something she normally used as the feature in a dish, but we thanked her for being one of the few out of dozens of food vendors that provided something more than deep fried zucchini – even while many vendors had no zucchini at all. The entrees like this curry come with white rice, dhal (the yellow lentil and potato dish in the foreground of the picture), chapati (thin, flat wheat bread), and raita (a cooling yogurt condiment, hiding behind the chapati). All exceptionally fresh ingredients tasted great with the lamb, which wasn’t gamey or too tough.
Technically food but not in the food area of the park, we found a few stands with edible goods ready to take home. Since August can never have too much dessert, we picked up a small bag of Black Tie Caramel. We tried a snippet of salted caramel on site, and it was super soft and perfectly salted. The smooth kind without nuts, like we got, was recommended as a nice touch to stir into coffee.
Primo’s Gourmet Food Co. showed mustards, fruit butters, and salsas at two tents. Fruit butter is essentially jam without pectin or seeds, resulting in a smooth and almost syrup-like spread. We tasted the berry pie butter and got a jar to use on toast and bagels for school morning breakfasts.
Tres Classique is going through a transition. Due to suppliers discontinuing the balsamic vinegar that they use for their base, Tres Classique is refreshing their ingredients as well as their label. We saw Tres Classique items as well as the new California Balsamic line, and after sampling several, Zach picked out a sweet balsamic that tasted like apple pie. He’s looking forward to using it as a dessert pairing with fruit and ice cream.
The drying process is rough, trying to keep the skin still and not bump into anything. But once the minimum time was up and all the bits of henna had flaked away, August was left with a beautiful design. Hopefully this will last at least a week, although sometimes henna designs can last three weeks, so we’ll see!
We came home loaded with loot and stuffed with zucchini. The festival was well organized with multiple bands scheduled to play, marauding trash patrol, and an efficient parking system. Happy but not overwhelmed, we had a wonderful time and think that anyone who likes zucchini should make their way here if possible. Although, even if you don’t like zucchini, there are tons of vendors with no zucchini on hand, so there’s no excuse not to come.