The Good, the Bad, and…the Zucchini


Zucchini has about as much taste as a roll of toilet paper and yet it is one of our favorite vegetables. It gives us an excuse to smother its taste with stuff we really like: butter, garlic, parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon, chopped ham, sour cream, paprika. Or hide it in omelets, soup, ratatouille and tortellini. Or dip slices in batter and fry because the batter tastes wonderful.  An exhaustive worldwide search of cookbooks would most likely reveal about thirty-seven thousand ways to disguise zucchini in other food to trick people into eating it. I dream of finding a recipe featuring a large zucchini suffocating in five inches of whipped cream.

Not even seed catalogs can exaggerate zucchini’s prowess in the garden. Throw a seed at bare soil and get out of the way. Once it sprouts and goes into high gear, nothing daunts it. It will shade out purslane, strangle rabbits, pull down fences and at full height, hide a small herd of deer. Fortunately it does not vine out like some other squashes do. If it did, a strand in good growing weather could beat you out the lane to the mailbox in the morning. Under optimum conditions, one plant produces enough to feed a small village. In bad weather, it takes two. A zucchini “fruit” can grow so big you may need a wheelbarrow to get it to the house. Small ones can trip the unwary and break a leg. I once grew one that— honest, now, I’m not exaggerating this time— was on the slender side but almost two feet long. I took it to a softball game and stepped up to the plate swinging it like a bat just to get a laugh or two. I am tempted to say that I lined a double to center field with it but that would be a lie and I never lie. It was only a slow roller to the pitcher. The end of the zucchini went farther than the ball.

If you want to encourage children into gardening, start them out on zucchini after promising them they won’t have to eat what they grow. Anybody can succeed with it except maybe Bedouin youngsters on the desert sands of Arabia. On second thought that is not a good idea. Young people would get the notion that raising food for a burgeoning world population is not challenging enough to merit their interest. The problem is easily solved. Grow more zucchini. Corporate giants that want us to believe they are out to save the world from starvation should manipulate some genetic material rich in protein and a taste like chocolate into zucchini. No more world hunger.

People who can’t stand to throw anything away should definitely not grow zucchini because no matter how clever you may be, you are not going to use up all you grow unless you own a sea-going ocean liner that needs ballast in the hold.  The generous gardener can become a nightmare in the neighborhood. He or she will want to fill your porch with zucchini when you are away, surprise, surprise. If you have gardening friends, always lock your car when you visit them or you might find the back seat piled high with zucchinis when you leave. There’s the story of the fellow who decided to grow ten acres worth. When he couldn’t sell but a small fraction of the crop— to a guy needing fill for under a new driveway—  he had to abandon the field for the whole year following, waiting for those beautiful, green glistening boulders to rot enough to cut up with a disk. Dredging them from the field with a dragline would have cost more than he could make farming those acres.

I love Carol’s zucchini bread. More than anything else, it proves what I am trying to say. Into it goes flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, eggs, sugar, baking soda, vegetable oil and sometimes hickory nuts. The following are the exact words of our short conversation on the subject.

“Why do you put zucchini into it at all?” I ask.

“For moisture,” she answers.

“Why don’t  you just add water instead?”

“Then it wouldn’t be zucchini bread.”


When making Zucchini bread we often recall the story of “Stone Soup” for the reasons mentioned by Gene.

Yes, thank goodness for pigs and chickens; otherwise, zucchini and its assorted relatives would take over my place the way kudzu has taken over the South, since we don’t have squash borers to keep it in check. I’ve always laughed at the term “bush” summer squash, since the plants obviously see it a little differently. I’ve heard them whisper things like “Even a zucchini can circumnavigate the globe with a little time,” or “Today the garden, tomorrow the world – pass it on!” I freeze quite a lot of it in grated form (keeps it from turning to mush and it will last well over a year), which makes it a snap to use in soups, fritters, meatloaf and zucchini bread throughout the winter, but we also eat it as zucchini relish and the small, tender squash make really good fermented pickles.

One word for surplus zucchini. Chickens! Whatever doesn’t make the table goes to our birds. They have never turned it down. My wife sprays the base of all our squash vines with insecticidal soap religiously. It stopped the little buggers on the winter squash and kept her zucchinis free. Lost the last one in last weekends 24 degree freeze. Ate the last little zuke Wednesday.
I would be willing to field test some of Gene’s Choclazini plants next year.

That made me laugh and my son, who I am staying with at the moment, winced with the memories

Who would have thunk it?! Great piece of creative writing, so originally you, about…the ubiquitous zucchini??! What a man!!

I found a variety that seems to have more flavor. Unfortunately, I can’t grow much. I put in 6 or 7 plants and sometimes get enough for a stir fry. Squash bugs. I started growing snake gourds instead, and that only takes one or two plants, and don’t stand still or you might be buried!

They used to put saw dust in bread in Germany on WWII, should’ve used zucchini, more moisture than saw dust. . .

I’ve made mock apple crisp with 50% zucchini and 50% apples, no one noticed. I once planted 16 hills of zucchini (the farmer in me refused to throw out the extra seed) and fed the extra to our hogs, after a while they refused to eat the stuff!

Dear Gene,
I think you’re on to something with your GMO chocolate zucchini. I hope you get the patent on it before Monsanto does. Thanks for the laugh.

If you have trouble with squash bugs try planting Mustard Greens as a cover crop for over the Winter many insects are repelled by Mustard when its tilled into the soil ,plus Giant Mustard is great eating either mixed into salads or cooked with some
cured ham pieces.Squash of about any variety is great eating cooked in many ways for me.

I heard of a man with an excess of Zucchini. At his wits end he piled them up on a chair by the side of the road with a “free” sign. When he got home from work there was still a pile of Zucchini, but the chair was gone.

I have a friend that now grows Tromboncino squash. They get bigger then Zucks if they get away, but stay (relatively) tasty right up to gargantuan, and if left on the vine their skins will harden enough to be an early winter squash. I think its more fun to chunk them up, and watch the chickens freak out over them.

For the sqaush line borer (plant in mid-june). We are still harvesting here in iowa. Another is to place cardboard around the plant on the ground to prevent the little buggers from burrowing in.

Well I must say if there was ever a purpose for the GMO breeders it would be to produce a high protein chocolate tasting Zucchini!
I don’t have those nasty bugs either and I dare not plant more than one or my neighbors will lock their doors and close the curtains.

The good lord blessed me with a way to get rid of it. My granddaughter loves the stuff grilled and will eat it every day if she can get it.

I need more laughs in my day. Keep it coming Gene.

Best laugh all week, Gene, thank you!
I read this year – after having SVB take out all of the new (to me) squash varieties that I tried – that butternut squash is naturally resistant to SVB. That’s my mainstay every year, and it did fine this year, too, as did the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, which is like a large curved butternut. Gene, you might like that one – one of mine is two feet long, curved in a “U”, weighs eleven pounds, and as if that weren’t enough it’s also NOT ZUCCHINI. Might make a strange-looking jack-o-lantern, though…

Gene, I was laughing all the way through this post. I know very little about gardening, but I know that you speak the truth on Zucchini!

I love butter, but zukes dilute it so much that I’d rather just butter my tongue and leave the zukes to the chickens.

Tim, Yes, I planted two rows in the garden and got one ear 16 inches long! Cindy, anything that involves lots of whipped cream works for me. James Thomas, “I always lose weight when we are eating lots of zucchini.” I rest my case. To all of you plagued with squash borers etc. Count your lucky stars. Seriously, do you find that squash bugs and borers are cyclical like we do. A lot one year, a few the next. In a squash bug-less year, you can store up enough zucchini to last a decade. Gene

It serves as our staff of life once it starts producing. The goats get the larger ones if we have an excess. I’ve heard it is a powerhouse of nutrients but low enough in calories that it doesn’t contribute to weight gain. It must be true because I always lose weight when we are eating lots of zucchini. I have diced, blanched and frozen it before for winter use but it is easy to turn it into zucchini mush if blanched a bit too long. It is our opinion that just a bit of salt and pepper applied to freshly picked, diced and steamed zucchini is by itself pretty tasty. a bit of butter makes it slide down the hatch even better

Maybe our zucchini “terroir” is different from other regions. So maybe some gourmets with sensitive taste buds can sample zucchini from different areas to see if there is a difference in terroir as wine aficionados claim exists for wine. I can just imagine it now that those folks ending up with a back car seat full of zucchini with highly esteemed terroir will feel truly blessed instead of wondering what to do with all that zucchini.

Gene, if you really want to you can make “pineapple” out of your zukes, turn that into pineapple upside down cake and then smother that in whip cream. Would that work for you?

We used to use sevin and rotenone back in the day to deal with the squash bugs

I’m super envious you don’t have squash bugs and squash vine borers to contend with. I have both and they about beat me this year. I spent literally hours picking squash bugs, their nymphs and egg clusters off the zucchini plants, only to have them die anyway, thanks to the SVB’s. Because they grow so fast, I planted them in succession, thinking at some point the bugs would give up but they took out every single zucchini and pumpkin plant I had the gall to try. I DID get some zucchini so its not all bad, but it was a lot of work for the few I got. Sigh. New strategy for next year – we’ll see if it works.

Absolutely hilarious, and absolutely true! Thank you for making me laugh out loud this morning!

A buddy of mine i used to work with wife had a chocolate zucchini bread that was out of this world. Wish i knew where i put the recipe. So Gene did you get to plant more of your open pollinated corn this year? Sorry to say the weather and other factors prevented me from doing much this year.Pretty rough year all around .Here’s hoping for next year.

Squash vine borers. I never get zucchini because of those nasty bugs. Sigh.

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