little vs big – the zucchini story

IMG_6066This past winter I serendipitously fell into a community garden. I really say fell, because it was by mere chance. I don’t live in the neighborhood where the garden is located and I was new to Bend, but was working for a food place of sorts. They had received notice that our parks department was looking for volunteers to be on a steering committee. I had nothing better to do that evening, so I went – more to gather information than actually participating. That didn’t last … I became an accomplice.

Community gardens entice me. I love the concept of using vacant lots and strips in street meridians, or even planned areas to grow food. People are hungry; and there is a crisis of good food, but that is another story to tell. Connect that to bringing people together for a common activity, well in my mind you have great success.

summer at the garden
summer at the garden

It’s moving toward late September. The summer growing season is wrapping up. We’ve had a light frost, and a more damaging one could come any day. It’s time to put the garden to sleep for the winter, which means the committee needs to arrange for a clean-up day, address the questions of winter gardening and celebrate our first year with a grand potluck. So we met.

Our conversation covered all of the important necessities, but continued to drag back to what grew and what had issues. It’s amazing what a shot of fertilizer rich with blood meal will do for sick-looking vegetables, including the ubiquitous zucchini, known for becoming a leviathan.

pile of zucchini at montavilla market
pile of zucchini at montavilla market

Now this humble summer squash of abundant reputation is everyone’s darling when they’re small fry, but left hidden under leaves of green, they soon take on the size of a linebacker’s legs. Lots of folks just decide to toss these brutes on the compost pile, feeling like they’ve out grown their usefulness. Au contraire, my friend. These ample squash make a sublime vessel to carry meat and vegetables smothered in sharp cheddar curds. Two fellow gardeners secretly confessed to glomming onto discarded compost-pile vegetables.

Zucchini’s flavor is sort of nondescript. The bonus of that is they adapt to different preparations like a chameleon changing colors. I do admit that the small zukes are preciously perfect for a quick sauté with garlic and a toss of fresh basil. But, the large beauties all hollowed out and stuffed with a mix of ground meat, rice, black beans and corn is pretty darned good. Left-over bits of refrigerator stuff sit nicely in the carved out vegetable. In fact, using up those orts is how my “garden” variety came about.

zuke stuffed with ... you name it
zuke stuffed with … you name it

I had some sweet chicken sausage, a few stalks of celery, a couple of carrots, onions, tomatoes and a bell pepper. Those basic ingredients could have become the base for a spaghetti sauce, but I also had a couple of over-grown zucchini.

My lovelies were sliced lengthwise and the excess seeds were scraped out with a spoon. Vegetables were chopped to about a ½” dice and cooked up in a skillet with the sweet sausage until they were slightly caramelized and quite yummy with salt, pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes. I loaded the zucchini with the meat mixture, put them on a baking sheet lined with foil and placed them on the grill to cook for about a half an hour. They could also be baked off in a 375 degree oven, but I quite like the smoky infusion of the grill.

not perfectly pretty
not perfectly pretty

With all of this babbling about community gardens and compost piles and ugly, over-grown vegetables, where do you fall on the zucchini size preponderance?



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