Last week my nephew accused his mother of felonious behavior: “She broke into Donna’s house to leave zucchini!”
Her response was immediate and indignant. “I didn’t break in! The door was unlocked.”
She didn’t even bother to deny that she had left the zucchini. After all, she had been merely following the zucchini-grower’s unwritten rule for getting rid of surplus: in August, any unlocked door is fair game. She knew no jury of her peers—namely, vegetable gardeners in the throes of zucchini harvest—would ever convict her. Instead, they’d probably ask her for Donna’s address. They would be eager to make the acquaintance of anyone too naïve to lock her door as protection against random acts of zucchini-dropping.
I, on the other hand, as a tomatoes-only gardener, was not only willing but eager to take some extra produce off my sister’s hands. I came home from a family visit with a box of cucumbers, two heads of cabbage, a bag of fresh green beans, and six zucchini. I appreciated it all, even the zucchini, though I was a bit daunted by the four that were bigger than baseball bats.
The problem with zucchini is figuring out how to use it. Zucchini is a vegetable, more specifically a squash. Therefore, by definition, it must be good for you. The dilemma is not whether one should eat it, but how.
Since zucchini has virtually no flavor, and since its texture evokes an art gum eraser more than a vegetable, it doesn’t add a lot of pizzazz to salads. Frying it works reasonably well, as long as you understand that the zucchini itself is not the point, but merely an excuse to add plenty of butter and seasoning. Sneaking it into casseroles is a possibility, as long as you don’t try to serve it to eagle-eyed small children who will spend their dinner hour poking through the entree to separate out small bits of anything suspiciously vegetable.
My purpose in bringing home the huge zucchini, though, was to grate and freeze it to use in zucchini bread and muffins. It’s a great way to eat something deliciously full of fat and sugar, while pretending that it’s good for you. This year I’ve discovered something even better—my son-in-law’s recipe for zucchini chocolate cake. Moist, rich chocolate cake with vegetables in it? Sounds like health food to me.
For years (at least until I learned about the chocolate cake) I’ve wondered why anyone grows zucchini. One reason might be that it’s so prolific and easy to produce. It’s like my father’s memory of the food when he was in Navy boot camp: it wasn’t very good, but there always was plenty of it.
Lately, though, I’ve begun to suspect a different reason. Maybe people don’t grow zucchini for its nutritional value, but for its entertainment value. Even those who eat zucchini laugh about it. Even its name is funny. It’s the squash that gets no respect. You just have to appreciate a vegetable that provides such good material for so many bad jokes.