Illustrations by Brad Anderson
For my family, I’d like to designate 2006 as The Year of the Zucchini. Of course this is not to be confused with other years at our house. We’ve also celebrated 2003, The Year of the Tomato and 2005, The Year of the Poinsettia. Everything was red and beautiful then. Between those years was my favorite, 2004, The Year of the Shrub Rose. It was such a fragrant year. I loved it.
Then came The Year of the Zucchini. Because of it, 14 loaves of homemade zucchini bread are still neatly wrapped and sitting in my freezer waiting to be given to friends and family. Many other loaves have already been given away as hostess gifts.
My history with zucchini began a few years ago when, for the first time, I planted just one plant. It was easy to plant and soon began growing … bigger and bigger and bigger. Wow, look at all those yellow flowers. Look at all the vines. How could I have guessed zucchini’s middle name was “prolific”? Why didn’t someone warn me one plant could take up most of my little garden? Who would have thought I’d carefully save every zucchini recipe I could get my hands on and even create a few new ones?
When summer ended and the last zucchini was finally picked, I promised I’d have a serious talk with myself before I ever considered planting zucchini again. It just wasn’t worth it. Certainly I could save myself all that trouble by just going to the grocery story and buying some.
No, sir. No more zucchini!
Then came the spring of 2006.
Knowing my large family would be with me for Thanksgiving and remembering zucchini bread is a favorite, I figured it would be nice to give everyone a loaf of bread to take home when they left. Was it temporary insanity or merely one of those famous senior moments that made me think such a thing? I don’t know – but it wasn’t good.
I thought to myself: A large family will need many loaves, and many loaves will require a lot of zucchini. From tiny tots to grandparents, not one person has ever turned down my zucchini bread. In fact, they usually ask for seconds and thirds. Now let’s see. One plant would probably yield enough for all the zucchini I would need, but perhaps I should plant two zucchini plants, just to make certain. And so I did just that. I planted two plants. I could almost taste that wonderful zucchini bread with all the spices and crushed pineapple that made it “the best recipe ever.” I was nearly drooling as I remembered the aroma of baking bread in my kitchen.
Everyone would love their gift.
Shortly thereafter, my husband came home with a plant in a 4-inch pot. He called it a cantaloupe. It would be nice to grow our own melons and enjoy them all summer long. As I planted it, I was surprised at how much it looked like the two zucchini plants I had recently planted.
Need I say more?
In addition to spending a long, hot summer in the kitchen baking bread, I once again got to use my collection of zucchini recipes. We had zucchini boats, stir-fried zucchini, zucchini au gratin. There was zucchini on the grill, zucchini soup and deep-fried zucchini. And still, there was zucchini. Do you realize how hot it can be in August … with the oven on … baking zucchini bread ... all day? Just ask me. I’ll tell you. I might also tell you my husband’s status as a gardener is now suspect and I should have given his “melon plant” away instantly – to someone I was put out with.
I don’t know what next year will be called. It would be nice if it turned out to be The Year of the Plum Tree or The Year of the Apricot Tree. One thing’s for certain. If I have anything to say about it, there will never be a repeat of 2006, The Year of the Zucchini.
Joanne Schulte enjoys gardening and writing, and she’s active in her garden club. She’s also the mother of a blended family of seven children, and is now the great-grandmother of seven. And they all love zucchini bread – or say they do.