Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 08.10.05
Stanstead, Quebec


Nuke the zukes

The thing with zucchini is that, as a food, it's really only so-so.

You rarely hear someone saying, "Mmmm, there's nothing like crunching into that first crisp zucchini straight off the vine."

Or, "Those darn neighbour kids have been in the garden again and they've eaten all the zucchini!"

Zucchini is primarily what I call a "hidden food" - not eaten on its own but hidden in other foods, such as muffins, stir fries and casseroles. Before tucking into a serving of Deb's lasagna, for instance, our kids are savvy enough to hesitate and say, "Is there any zucchini in here?"

Enter "zucchini" on Canadian Living's website and you'll come up with 114 recipes, only thirteen of which actually have "zucchini" in their name, including "Zucchini Ribbons," which you don't even want to know about.

See? Hidden food.

There's a reason for this. Zucchini is a vegetable with an identity crisis. It doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it crisp or soggy? Is it a pleasure or an obligation? ("Eat your Zucchini Ribbons. They're good for you.")

And yet, almost every backyard gardener grows zucchini. Why? Because you really have to botch things badly not to produce a crop. This year, thanks to the hot, wet weather and the fact that Deb may have gone a little nuts when she was planting, our zucchinis are earlier, bigger and more abundant than we've ever seen.

While they were still edible, last week I picked most of the biggest zucchinis. I immediately regretted it. I should have left one behind to continue growing to win the "Largest Zucchini" prize at the Ayer's Cliff Fair. As far as I know, this is the only practical reason for growing zucchinis.

So what had I planned to do with the first of many armloads of zucchinis? The same we do every year: grate and freeze them.

But then the unthinkable happened. Digging into the bottom of our freezer I came upon bags and bags of last year's grated zucchini. We'd lapped ourselves.

Now we're going to have to come up with other ways to dispose of the stuff. As of this writing, I've just made my second batch of zucchini-chili relish. It's good stuff but we'll need to eat a lot of hot dogs to use it all. Oh, and by the way, family and friends, guess what you're all getting for Christmas this year?

Deb, meanwhile, has deluded herself into thinking the kids love this recipe she dug out called "Greek Zucchini Squares." Diced zucchini, Bisquick, feta cheese. I'm surprised Hostess doesn't market this - "It's a meal! It's a dessert!"

Just as desperate, I find myself imagining other ways to use up zucchini:

- footwear;

- doorstops;

- create a religion based on zucchini worship - could win the endorsement of a Hollywood celebrity who's attracted to vegetables, say Katie Holmes;

- zuchinni puppets;

- make Halloween zuchin-o-lanterns;

- compost.

We're going to run into the same problem with our cucumbers. We're about to get a huge crop and we still have jars and jars of last year's dill pickles. For that matter, we have jars of bread-and-butters from 2003 and a jar of dilled beans that goes back to 2001. The latter will be appearing sometime soon on an episode of "Fear Factor."

That's the problem with gardens: everything ripens at once. At first, you can't wait for that fresh lettuce. And then, you can't wait to get through all that lettuce. But you don't want to throw it away. So you beg your neighbours to take some. But they all have lettuce too. These truly are the salad days.

Beets, beans, peas: they're all ready to eat now. So why do we create this pressure for ourselves? Why stress over planting a garden only to fret about eating it all? The only reason I can figure is that a garden is one less patch of grass to mow.