Monday, August 17, 2009

What the world needs now is zucchini, sweet zucchini

And then there’s the one about how you don’t park your car with the doors unlocked if you’re carrying around the world’s largest zucchini because something terrible might happen. Someone might put the second largest zucchini in there, too.
There is soft spot in my heart for this obscure garden plant that goes from beautiful blossom to colossal bland vegetable in the blink of an eye. For years, my family has been planting zucchini in our gardens, and for years we’ve been wondering why. Because what seemed like such a good idea in the spring, the thought of freshly baked zucchini bread, or cheesy zucchini sauté, becomes just a big old plant with an extraordinary output of fruit. The Guinness Book of World Records has the largest zucchini to date as a whopping 64 pounder. I reckon the gardener was very proud of his accomplishment, but after spending fourteen hours grating the giant beast of a veggie, he swore to never, ever let his plants get that large again.
In my garden this year I thought I was being very reasonable. One set of zucchini plants, I thought, would more than suffice. I could bake the bread and freeze a little for the next time. Keep it simple, keep it small.
But as mentioned there’s nothing simple or small about zucchini.
Zucchini is a wave of a vegetable. It literally comes at you every which way and in great proportion. Chances are if you don’t have some growing at your own house, you know someone who does. And chances are that person has offered you more than your fair share of the green vegetable. Eventually you break down and take it, and before long everyone in the great state of Ohio has a freezer full of bread and a refrigerator full of zucchini that we all don’t know what to do with.
Then it becomes a bit like the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, only Bubba Gump had to clear out the shrimp for the vegetable whose slogan is “no, I’m not a cucumber.” We all start getting overly creative. Zucchini pancakes. Zucchini stirfry. Zucchini pickles. Zucchini pasta. Zucchini casseroles so plentiful that if ever there was a national food for the month of August, that would surely be it. Zucchini cake, zucchini ice cream, zucchini donuts, zucchini-tinis. Zucchini anything, just to get rid of the thing that breaks every law of physics with its outlandish growth rate.
In fact, someone went as far as to declare August 8th every year as “Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbor’s Porch Day,” a cruel and unforgiving holiday that only ends up with good people and possibly good friends, shaking unwanted zucchini in each other’s faces.
But in hindsight, we should all take a good look at this plant and learn a few lessons from it. There is great wisdom in the mighty zucchini.
We can learn a lesson in needs versus wants: Be wise and plant only what you need.
We can learn a lesson in care and patience: Tend to your plants well, or else they will quadruple in size and cut their flavor in half if you turn your back on them.
We can learn a lesson in sharing, especially when we have not learned the previous two lessons, and pass on the wealth of our misfortunate crop with all that have ever muttered “sure, I kind of like it.” And that person can learn a lesson in being truthful when asked a such a serious question.
Self-control, thoughtfulness, charity, and honesty. All that from a single over-sized squash, not to mention some pretty delicious zucchini bread.

A couple of readers have actually requested recipes!! Stay tuned. I'll post them soon!

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