OOOOOH! What a beauty, I've never seen one as big as that before,
Oh Oh! What a beauty, it must be two foot long or even more.
And it's such a lovely color, so big, and round, and fat,
I've never seen a zucchini grow quite as big as that,
Oh Oh! What a beauty, I've never seen one as big as that before.
~~ Tim Curry, The Zucchini Song
In Ferndale, our family scraped the weeds off the garden plot each Spring, got a nearby farmer to come by, plow and disc the dirt, then we planted in it, the ugliest and most un-designer of vegetables in the vegetable universe.
In this day when radishes have appellations like sauternes, this 1950's vegetable matter was hybred for maximum bulk.
There were beets, not golden ones, Chioggias, or babies, but beta vulgaris which we left in the ground until they were big as soft balls and as tasty. And carrots, not tiny, skinny sweet ones, but big orange horsefingers known as "dicers.")
No edible peapods... but round English peas to be shelled, canned and then mixed at a later date with the carrots and served in a long out-of-fashion dish called "Peas & Carrots." Stringbeans were beans and thick, not haricots and thin, green not purple, despite they were known as Blue Lakes.
The best attribute a veggie could have in those days was BIG. We'd get heavy producing varieties out of the Burpee's catalog with names like 'Tennessee Honkin' or "'Whale Boots', Big Dump', or 'Bull Tush."
If the Big Boy tomatoes grew so huge you could only get one in a jar, that got you bragging rights.
When you said 'squash' back in those days, we said hubbard which we, as young boys, carved into forts or carriages pulled around by Labrador retrievers. Or yellow long necks the size of banjos, or patty-pans like flying saucers which we let grow to the diameters of dinner plates.
The garden was a big ugly food producing place. When it didn't smell like chicken shit, it produced family food staples, damn it. On late September nights, with great toil (and without a modern stapler) these staples were stuffed into jars and cans, and cooked to shit in a kettle.
The whole dreary process from spreading the chicken shit to being force-fed peas & carrots turned many of us against vegetables for the rest of our lives.
I remember well when zucchinis hit Ferndale. They were touted to be "gor-may" and Eye-talian and folks didn't trust 'em at first. They seemed flighty and lightweight as we imagined Italians to be because we'd never actually met any.
Besides, zucchinis didn't taste like much, (this was before the days of basil).
But they grew like hell, and they grew BIG. After discovering this, everybody put in hills and hills of them, and produced enough zukes in Ferndale to supply Bellingham, but, problem was: Bellingham already grew enough to supply Seattle.
It was a problem.
We tried. People found creative uses like substituting zucchinis for apples in pie, or ricking the zukes up in the backyard and using them for firewood; some shredded them and blew them into the attic as insulation.
(This was 20 years before the invention of the battery-operated personal vibrator, so perhaps they were used as "marital aids" by the unsatisfied wives and the so-called "spinsters" of the era -- according to the oral traditions of the male high school population, they were used that way, though I have no other direct knowledge of such things).
None of these things dented the zucchini surplus. After awhile, even the pigs turned up their snouts at them, holding out for the basil that wouldn't be discovered by the Ferndale citizenry for decades.
Therein started a guerilla zucchini war and summer squash-related crime wave that continues on the North American continent wherever zukes are found.
Since no one would ever steal a zucchini or buy one, they were really hard to get rid of -- a thorny problem that we're still dealing with in the 21st century.
It was sort of reverse robbery. You'd answer the door and find no one there but a grocery bag full of zucchinis. Sometimes they were on fire.
You couldn't leave a car unlocked for fear of receiving a "bag from hell."
(We once found a baby abandoned on our front porch and my mother was so grateful it wasn't more zucchinis, she named it Zeke and raised him as one of her own).
What's worse than the actual surplus of the vegetable is its derision and the proliferation of jokes -- the zucchini jokes of summer are the fruitcake jokes of Christmas. They are to gardeners what drummer jokes are to musicians.
Pumpkins, other squashes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers — all produce prodigious amounts of pithy flesh, yet are never as maligned as zukes. It's sad and it's wrong.
Zucchini "Apple" Pie
4 cups zucchini, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp butter, diced
1 9-inch double crust pie shell (store-bought or your own recipe)
1. Boil zucchini until tender. Drain and let stand in cold water for about 5 minutes, then drain.
2. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon, cream of tartar, lemon juice, salt and nutmeg. Mix well. Put into pie crust. Dot with butter. Put top crust on.
3. Bake at 400 degrees F for 40-50 minutes. Makes 1 pie.