Monday, July 25, 2016

Zucchini!

Around this time every year, someone we know will be moaning, "Too much zucchini!" They will try to give it to you, hide it in your car, put it on the curb with a sign that says "Free!" This year, I'm that person. Fortunately, I've managed to distribute mine, ot put it up, or feed it to the chickens.

Our plants have done well this summer. Abundant rain at the right time makes all the difference to our ridge gardens with their fast-draining sandy soil. Larry mulched this year too, another aid to growing good plants.

Then comes harvest. Now we planted only 4 zucchini plants but already we've eaten it in dishes of all kinds, and last week in desperation I ground up  bunch and put it in the freezer to be used later for zucchini bread and to sneak into dishes like spaghetti, meatloaf, and chili.

I was going to post a few zucchini recipes, but honestly, don't we all have plenty of them? And if we don't the internet is prolific with ways to use zucchini in everything from cakes to casseroles to veggie juices and probably ice cream if we looked hard enough! So here are some things you might not know about this most common, and yet strange (read on!) plant.

We are probably all guilty of maligning the poor zucchini, but I got to wondering about this prolific veggie. What is its history? Where did it originate? Apparently, it's native to our shores, although it had to travel to Italy to get its name, and its current shape and color.

Almost all, in not all, squash plants came from the Americas, according to my research However, when transported to Italy in the late 1800's a squash variety was developed into what we now call zucchini--a long, dark-green vegetable that grows on a  leafy vine. As for the name, according to Wikipedia, "Zucca is the Italian word for pumpkin/squash and zucchino/zucchina (zucca + ina = little) are diminutive forms, becoming zucchini/zucchine in the plural."

Apparently zucchini can also become toxic, as there is a toxin called cucurbitacin present in all members of the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, which includes squash, pumpkins and cucumbers. Large quantities of this can potentially be fatal, and there is at least one documented case of a man dying from eating a casserole made from a squash that had an unusually high amount of the toxin present. Strange!

Zucchini, called courgette in some countries, has another strange side: apparently it can prevent the "evil eye" from resting on your property--at least in Albania. In that country, people who retain the old superstitions might hang something (called a dordolec) over their door or on the side of their house to draw the envious eyes away, and keep them from coveting their property. Apparently in some case, a courgette is used as a dordolec. Read more about this custom here.

And it has one other not readily apparent use: a weapon against bears. A woman in Montana used one in 2010 to fight off a bear attack. No lie! It must have been one of those baseball-bat-size zukes.

Zucchini also its own holiday too--a Pennsylvania man proclaimed August 8th as National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day. Now that's fame. 

You can find more strange zucchini stories here. I'm off to the kitchen to see what I can do with the basketful Larry just brought in. Wish me luck!

yright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

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