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The Humble Gardener

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zucchini flower

Too Much Summer Squash


As I got out of my car in Target's parking lot, key fob in hand, I heard a man say, "Be sure to lock your car." Startled, I noticed an older gentleman in the car next to mine. He smiled and said, "It's zucchini season." Immediately my mind flashed to my kitchen counter, piled with yellow summer squash, and I briefly considered stashing squash in unsuspecting vehicles as a possible solution to our squash bounty. But I quickly realized that I simply couldn't dump our problem on strangers. I would like to think I have too much integrity to do such a thing but mainly I would be mortified if I got caught.

The squash eruption in our garden is unexpected and not totally welcome. Back in April, when we were transplanting the tiny seedlings we had grown from seed, we proceeded to make our own potting soil. This mixture included compost that we had gotten which, in the past, has been an excellent medium for our plants. This year, we suspect, the compost had been the victim of excessive herbicide, as many of our seedlings, after a short period in the potting soil, shriveled and stopped growing. We had to replant, and with the gardening season fast approaching, our usual system of tracking what we had planted and when fell apart. Fearful that we had misdiagnosed the problem, we replanted more seeds than we needed. Of course, the second planting thrived, and we were faced with more plants than we actually wanted.

If you think that we could have gotten rid of some of the second batch, you are right. I took some to the annual plant sale at the Knox County Nursing Home. I gave some to a neighbor. But we still had too many plants. Smart gardeners would have simply thrown the extra squash plants in the compost heap, but experience has taught us that as soon as we do that, the borers attack and the plant dies.

Unfortunately, no borers appeared this season. Unfortunately, three plants of yellow summer squash thrived. I would check the plants in the morning, praying that no new squashes had appeared, and by nightfall, Chip was bringing a basket of the darn things into the house.

I have no love for squash, but Chip loves it. I think anything that has to have a half pound of butter added to it to make it palatable is not worth growing. Faced with the bounty, we scrambled for some ideas so it wouldn't go to waste.

A friend had surgery and couldn't get out much, so we dumped-uh, generously shared- some with her. She was actually excited to get it and was entered in ink on my "Suckers who will take yellow squash" list. We always share tomatoes from our garden with a neighbor; this year she got yellow squash, too. She never commented, and we didn't ask. All I cared was that it wasn't on my kitchen counter anymore.

We simmered squash and green beans, added salt and pepper and copious amounts of butter, and enjoyed it for supper. The first night. It was still palatable a couple of nights later. By the third night, realizing that we still had a ton of squash left, we hit our canning books for ideas.

Not surprisingly, there are no recipes for preserving squash. Because squash gets mushy and sinks to the bottom of the jar, the contents may not be sufficiently heated to effect safe canning. Not to mention what to do with a bunch of canned, mushy squash that has no taste.

We decided to blanch and freeze some squash with green beans, thinking that in the middle of winter, even I, avowed squash hater, would welcome a bit of summer produce to our menu. We picked, cleaned, diced and blanched. Chip manned the food processor, and I bagged the output. Soon we had a squash free counter top and several bags of squash/beans, the green contrasting nicely with the yellow squash.

Part of me feels guilty for being so churlish about our bounty. I recognize that there are people who would love to have the opportunity to access our garden. I realize that we are blessed to have the stamina and wherewithal to grow a garden. I am humbled by the gift of the vegetable garden. But I cannot, as hard as I try, find it in me to be grateful for squash.

Squash abounds. We made a bundt cake; substituting yellow squash for zucchini works well. We breaded slices and fried it. We stir fried it. And the pile remained undiminished. Alas, Chip's vigilance precludes my ideas for ending the plants' existence.

And now, I must go to Target. Surely someone has left her vehicle unlocked. Integrity is highly overrated.

 

Master Gardener

Sandra DePalma-Odell


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