They just keep coming, and neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night will stay these squash from their appointed growing. The familiar refrain rang through my head as I gathered up yet another armload of zucchini, which after a season, wears even the strongest gardener down. Every morning, there’s one that formed overnight; in the evenings you collect a few that escaped your attention earlier.
It’s no joke that you run out of people to give them to; even food banks plead for food other than zucchini. So the creative gardener turns to less traditional methods to divest themselves of squash.
“Is there anyone at work you could give zucchini to?” I asked my spouse, casting a significant glance at the stacked mound of green cylinders on the counter. Working at a post office, I figured he’d find someone who hasn’t become sick of them yet.
“I don’t think so,” he said, “I can’t just ask people if they need any stamps, package insurance, or a squash. And besides, everything has to have a stamp on it.” Disappointed, we stared at the future of our dinners for the next month.
“You know, those zucchinis are perfectly sized for post office boxes,” he said, slowly raising his eyes to mine. Having postal carriers place them in mailboxes flitted through our minds. “Seriously, give me the squash,” he said, intoning their motto: “we’re the U.S. Postal Service – we deliver.”
In the morning he set off, a sack of squash in one hand, a pocketful of change for stamps in the other, to work the miracle of modern shipping. I don’t know if the special deliveries were met with joy; when the bag came home empty I asked no questions.
Why do we love zucchini at season’s start but loathe it at the end? True, it could be that we’re overloaded with it when it becomes part of our every day diet. There are only so many quiches, casseroles, steamed dishes, breads, and cakes you can tolerate.
But there is also an interloper in the garden, a fungus that robs the plant of flavor: powdery mildew. Coating the leaves with a fine, white dust, powdery mildew sets in on squash plants late in summer, living off the sugars the plant produces. Once it takes over, the quality of the squash suffers and it’s not as enjoyable.
Little can be done to combat the disease, other than sowing seeds weeks apart to keep young plants on hand (but prolonging the zucchini season isn’t something experienced gardeners do unless they’re looking forward to a restful stay at a rehab center). Live with the disease, and when the squash stacks up, think creatively.
I have a new pile on hand, so when the doorbell rang and I glanced up to see a salesman standing there, I smiled. Picking up the squash, I answered the door, stretching out my arm as if for a handshake. His stunned expression upon being zucchinied was worth it – I’ll grow more squash next year.
Many thanks to the United States Postal Service for their sense of humor in aiding with this story. This post was previously published in the Longmont Ledger.