Maniacal laughter near the zucchini plant.
Always a terrible, no good, bad thing.
In my first book, There Are Dinosaurs In The Fields, I included an essay about zucchini.
If you have either grown zucchini or lived where people grow it, you understand.
While going through all of my collected recipes accumulated over the years, I came across a newspaper clipping of zucchini recipes with a somewhat humorous introduction by Daniel Neman from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“Give a man a zucchini and he will eat for a day. Give a man a zucchini plant, and he will wind up with so much zucchini he won’t know what to do with it, and he’ll probably end up resenting you.”
This was a fine and true introduction.
I’m constantly trying to find new ways to eat zucchini, a vegetable that doesn’t really have much flavor of its own, contains a lot of water, and won’t stop growing and producing. Baked into something. As fritters. Fried like chips. Baked with potatoes. Dehydrated and ground up like a flour.
When things start coming ripe in the garden—and it’s mostly all at once—I get a little panicked and wonder why so many seeds were put in the ground in the first place.
Like last year, we had a community garden plot along with gardens in the backyard. This year, however, we aren’t in a drought and we also have four plots instead of two. A few seeds generates a lot of produce. The kohlrabi came first, a strange, alien-looking vegetable with strong cabbage smell and a lot of confusion about what to do with it. Then the early beets started rolling in, leading me to a recipe on borscht. Let’s not forget the celery, the green onions, the volunteer borage, the dill, the beans, the peas, the basil.
Now the zucchini and a few tomatoes, and a few ears of corn. Soon the potatoes and watermelon and squash. In about a month, the plums will invade.
Last year I baked and dehydrated and canned and froze and by the end of the fall I never wanted to see another garden again.
And here we are.
“This year we’re going to eat fresh,” I told my friend. “I want to try to eat out of the garden as much as we can and not can so much.”
Last night was a fresh tomato cream sauce with pasta. Which, as you’ll note, did nothing to make a dent in the pile of zucchini that keeps building every time we come home from watering and weeding our community garden plot.
Green zucchini, over-prolific yellow egg zucchini…mocking me from the kitchen counter.
“Darlene, I have some zucchini available for you if you want it,” I texted a friend. She’d given me her chocolate zucchini recipe (the best ever) and had said her plants didn’t do as well this year.
I assumed this year that, due to exploding food prices and creeping food shortages, more people would plant a garden. I was wrong, though, because there seemed to be fewer gardens planted and several were started but abandoned, left to nothing but tall weeds. Our garden, on the other hand, is generating plenty of food though it is forcing me to be creative in my cooking. I am very glad I grew up on a farm and had a mother who made us help her with two large gardens, one who cooked and canned from it and got us used to getting food we grew in the soil.
But I would still very much like to hand off a significant portion of my current zucchini to Darlene, because I saw the blossoms and early starts on the plants and there’s no slowing down what’s coming. For your edification, the golden egg zucchini variety is extremely prolific.
Last night, as we worked at the garden and I was watering at the far corner, I suddenly heard my friend’s maniacal laughter. I looked over and saw that he was standing in all of the zucchini and squash plant chaos, and my heart sank.
He reached down and started wrestling with something, still laughing in a way that put fear in my vegetable-weary heart.
“Please tell me. What.”
He stood up, holding a giant zucchini. It was ridiculous. “Looks like we missed one. I didn’t see this at all!”
A zucchini that large is useless. Hard to cut into, too many seeds inside—there’s a reason you have to stay on top of those lightning-fast zucchini and pick them quickly.
It sits on my counter right now, though I may give it to my sister so she can feed her pigs. They like squash and such.
But I’m telling you that you never, ever want to hear maniacal laughter coming from the zucchini area of your garden, because nothing good is about to emerge.
I’m also telling you I’m thankful, in a round-about way, for the garden and the rain and the chance to grow our own food in these strange times of inflation and shortage, even if it means creating a recipe collection dedicated mostly to the onslaught of zucchini.