Much-maligned zucchini is an unassuming producer

Pity the lowly zucchini. The butt of a thousand internet memes has done nothing more than produce an abundance of food with little effort on the part of the gardener, and for that it is ceaselessly mocked.

Just in the past week I’ve seen reminders to lock your car doors “or else someone will put free zucchini in it” and pictures of petrified Corgis, who are typically tough little dogs bred to herd livestock, cowering in a corner when faced with a giant zucchini and the prophetic message, “Teach a man to fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to garden and the whole neighborhood gets a zucchini.”

Zucchini doesn’t have adoring fans like the almighty tomato does, but it quietly goes about its business providing food. In fact, it does it so quietly that in the course of a day a single fruit might go from just a touch too small to something that could be used as a weapon.

Zucchinis have the ability to camouflage themselves as well. You can check a zucchini plant daily and still somehow miss a fruit for days, only to one day notice something the size of a baseball bat hiding under the plant’s sizable leaves.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy zucchini, as any internet search will tell you. One offers “62 new ways to enjoy zucchini!” I can’t think of more than 10 ways that I’ve ever eaten it, and since chocolate zucchini bread is among those I don’t think I’ll be needing any more.

Zucchini plants aren’t infallible though. There are a few pests that can put a damper on that summer bounty and the worst among them is squash vine borers, the larvae of a fast-flying moth that feed inside the main stem, leading to the complete and sudden collapse of the plant. If you have any doubt that a vine borer is to blame, you can dissect the stem near the soil and you’ll find one or more unsavory wormlike creatures munching away. This can be prevented by wrapping the lower stem with aluminum foil or covering the plant with row cover when moths are laying eggs.

Powdery mildew, which any gardener who has grown zucchini has experienced, is mostly an aesthic issue but can lead to decreased production. Make sure not to plant zucchini too close together and look for mildew resistant varieties.

Most home gardeners probably only need one zucchini plant, but I usually plant two in case something happens to one. So far this year both are healthy and producing well enough that I’ve already started pulling out some of the more creative zucchini recipes from my arsenal.

I’ve not resorted to middle-of-the-night zucchini drops on neighbors’ porches yet, but that’s because I’m stocking up. Aug. 8 is National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day (I’m not making this up), and I’d hate to miss such an important summer holiday. But I’d like to propose another holiday sometime around Aug. 15 — National Sneak Some Chocolate Zucchini Bread on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. I’ll be waiting.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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