Not much about my living situation makes me prouder than my garden. It’s not everything I want it to be, but I think it’s a really durned good start, considering the shape of our yard when we moved in.
My family always had a garden, when I grew up. It wasn’t always a very successful garden. I remember one year we planted corn, and the corn we finally plucked off the plant looked like the dentures of a two hundred year old Frankenstein’s monster. We fed them to the birds. Another year, my mother planted everything under the sun. This was unusual because we had a good population of deer in that yard, and it was hard enough to keep them from eating just a few things. Someone had told her that planting hot peppers would keep the deer away. Well, the deer ate everything except the hot peppers.
Mostly, my family was successful at growing zucchini. The first year I am able to remember helping plant the garden, we had six zucchini plants. Are you already laughing? Then you must have planted zucchinis yourself, at some point. At the end of the summer, we had dozens upon hundreds of zucchinis. The neighbors had all put up “Zucchini Free Zone” signs on their front doors and back decks (lest we should try to drop our zucchinis there and run). We had learned to hollow the big zucchinis out and make boats or cars or space ships out of them, which the pet hamsters were usually forced to pilot. Turns out not even hamsters like zucchinis that big.
My mother never learned. As long as I lived with her, she always planted too many zucchini plants. But I do like to eat zucchini, so I resolved that when I got to plant my own garden, I would wisely plant only one zucchini, and this would be quite enough to feed me and all my neighbors.
First thing I discovered is why Mom always planted too many. We started our seeds inside the house while the weather was still cold, in little pots. I planted three zucchinis because I wanted to make sure at least one would survive. When the time came to plant them in the garden, it felt heartless to throw away perfectly healthy seedlings, so I planted two. (Even through my obvious weakness, I knew that planting all three would be folly.)
As expected, the zucchini plants have grown six times faster than any of the other plants in the garden. So far, I’ve picked several tomatoes and one pea. The pumpkins, mellons and gourds show no sign of fruit yet, the beans will be ready to pick by the end of the week, the potatoes by the fall, and god only knows what the broccoli is up to. But the zucchinis…
I counted this evening. There are 11 fruits on my zucchini plant. Here’s the problem: they aren’t zucchinis!!
The plant looks like a zucchini plant, but I know better than to be deceived. Pumpkins, gourds, squashes, and zucchinis all look nearly identical as far as leaves, stems, and flowers go (unless, I’m sure, you’re a botanist).
Near as I can tell, it’s actually a gourd. I did plant gourds. I’ve never seen a gourd that looks like this, though. And the plants that I thought were actually gourds are kind of languishing in a different corner, not even showing signs of fruit yet. If my zucchini plants are actually gourds, I suppose that’s okay, but I’ll be really disappointed if I wind up with enough gourds to feed a small country, and no zucchinis at all. I don’t have any good gourd recipes.