En route to the coffee pot at work Tuesday, I came upon:
Clever marketing by whoever brought them in, but I’d rather take home a rabid bat than a zucchini.
I was going to write anew about the problem with zucchini, and then I remembered I had composed for the print edition a fairly lengthy treatise on the subject a decade ago, back in my food editor days (I can hardly even type “food editor days” with a straight face, but it’s true, I had that responsibility for four awkward years).
So what the heck; why not just re-run that piece in the old blog, so here you go:
What to do with all those zucchini?
Aug. 13, 2002
You really have to admire, if nothing else, the relentlessness of the zucchini.
If baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr., for instance, were to take the form of a semi-edible garden weed, he would no doubt come to life as a zucchini plant.
Having sprung into existence from a single seed seemingly capable of germinating in everything from moon dust to nuclear waste, come harvest time this tangle of vines will day after day provide your family with sustenance — assuming, that is, anyone in your family is willing to eat the stuff.
As for myself, I’ve had the occasional slice of zucchini bread over the years, and I once ate fried zucchini.
The zucchini bread, I recall always thinking, would’ve been better had it not, well, had zucchini in it. And the fried zucchini seemed kind of like really thick, really stale potato chips, only somewhat less appealing.
In short, the best things I can personally attest to regarding zucchini from a produce standpoint is that it’s not quite as hard to spell as “rutabaga” or “pomegranate,” and it doesn’t grow on laceration-inducing briars like its agrarian-scourge cousin, the blackberry.
I’ve come to realize, however, that there are people out there who actually appreciate what this summer squash has to offer beyond a name that makes it sound like an Italian sports car. And on Monday evening, a number of these people gathered at the Albany home of Barb Bolden.
Bolden, on this night, was hosting a different kind of potluck, the Master Gardeners’ annual Zucchini Challenge. Instead of, for example, names beginning with A-L bringing a side dish and M-Z a main course, everyone attending had the same instruction: Show up with something made from a recipe that calls for zucchini.
“You don’t have to bring anything if you don’t want to,” Bolden said upon inviting me, whom she knew to be an admitted zucchini avoider, to come to the potluck. “However, I would challenge you to reserve judgment and taste a few of the dishes. I think you will be surprised. Master Gardeners like to eat, so we do get a diverse menu.”
Had scheduling conflicts not arisen, I would’ve dropped in on the Zucchini Challenge, though I likely would not have accepted Bolden’s challenge (my standard line, which is in fact true, whenever anyone wants me to sample something I’m unsure of is, “You know, I have no sense of smell, which means I don’t have much sense of taste either, which means I’m really not very qualified to give you any meaningful feedback.”
Anyway, in lieu of attending Monday’s event I asked Bolden for a list of contestants I might bother for comments, recipes to pass along, etc. That list included Lebanon’s Jerry Parks.
In a Texas twang still strong despite a decade in the Willamette Valley, Parks told me that his entry in the Challenge would be a served-cold zucchini pizza.
“It’s a double whammy,” Parks said. “It’s a zucchini dough, with zucchini/vegetable topping.”
To Parks, zucchini is practically an all-purpose food.
“I fix it a lot of ways,” he said. “In stew, soups. I chop it up and put it in with potatoes and carrots and celery. And I like it fried, although I don’t do much frying anymore.”
For health reasons?
“Yeah, and it’s a mess — all those greasy pans,” he said.
Photographer David Patton, who like me would be unwilling to lay down in his life in a war against zucchini blight, but unlike me actually has a sense of taste, sampled the pizza, incidentally, and said it was very good.
So if you think all a zucchini plant is good for is producing lots of dark-green, oblong doorstops, think again. Parks, Bolden and a number of other Master Gardeners can relentlessly tell you differently.
And now that you’ve read all about zucchini, you’ve earned your way to Catch of the Day: