One summer day, not too long ago, we returned home from a shopping excursion and noticed a large package sitting on the front step. As I grabbed our groceries out of the car, the kids ran ahead to check out the gift that had arrived in our absence. Turns out the package was actually an ordinary brown shopping bag, which, when opened, revealed a large, well actually huge, dark green zucchini hiding inside. We examined the bag for a note or any trace of who might have left the gigantic treasure behind. Nothing – no evidence, except perhaps some invisible fingerprints requiring special equipment and a crime lab for analysis.
We took the bag inside and removed the contents. This was one large zucchini, clearly the end result of an overly productive plant or as my neighbor would say, a garden on steroids. Anyone who has raised a healthy squash plant, or known someone who has, will have experienced the bounty of the generous zucchini plant. One morning you have a single yellow blossom and what seems like the next day, a behemoth vegetable like the one we found gracing our doorstep. Pretty soon everyone you know, including the UPS delivery guy and your daughter’s piano teacher is the perfect recipient for the seemingly endless supply of ripe vegetables.
I still have no idea who the mystery squash came from, although I have a few suspicions (unsubstantiated). The girls discussed what could be done with the green giant – a weapon to ward off intruders, a veggie baseball bat or the ingredients for at least 20 large zucchini bread loaves. The latter turned out to be the perfect use – there was just a little more than we needed (a bit of an understatement) so we threw the leftovers in the freezer.
To be completely honest, I would have preferred the equivalent weight of the small tender zucchini or other young summer squashes we receive from our farm bag – so delicate you can scrap the skin off with the edge of a spoon. But zucchini is a tremendously versatile vegetable – unlike most it can be used in sweet as well as savory dishes, and eaten cooked or raw. Summer squashes can be spiced up or sautéed quite simply in olive oil with just a dash of salt and pepper. The flavor of a tender, young squash is delectably mild, something even the pickiest toddler can adore. And even the largest baseball bat sized squash can be the perfect ingredient for a spice bread that is wonderfully moist, with just a hint of green to remind us of whence it came.