Year of the Zucchini


In our family, 2008 was known as the year of the zucchini.

My younger daughter and I decided to plant a garden. What could be easier – or more plentiful – than zucchini? We bought our seedlings and carefully planted them in a flower bed near the house. We decided that water, sun and little bit of love would have us knee-deep in zucchini.

Yes, 2008 was the year of the zucchini. As in singular. One. Despite the abundant flowering of our plants, the reality is we managed to grow only one zucchini that year. Thankfully, we have photographic evidence. I thought zucchini was supposed to grow so rapidly that people just give it away, and run out of ways to cook it.

Learning about gardening

What I didn’t know is there is more to growing the green vegetable than just the basics. Apparently you need male and female blooms to pollinate a garden. There were other tips more experienced growers shared with me, and I realized growing the often-maligned zucchini was harder than I thought.

I grew up in an Italian family – it was a disgrace if half your backyard wasn’t turned into a garden. All of my relatives had at least a tiny patch of something growing somewhere on their property. My uncle in Akron, who was known as the king of the predominantly-Italian North Hill community, had a garden that was a thing of beauty. When we visited he showed it off with the care a docent would take at the Louvre.

My sister is carrying on that fine family tradition. She has a garden full of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and other summer goodies that she tends to all season. She often calls to tell me how the crop is growing and, when we visit, I get my fill of homegrown goodness.

Me? Apparently I have a brown thumb. I have tried my hand – or, rather, thumb – at tomatoes, peas and lettuce. What bothers to come up at all is often eaten by the rabbits. Even those seedlings that come from school in paper cups as part of science or Earth Day projects often withered away. I don’t even try anymore. I ooh and aah over the tiny green shoots, keep them on the kitchen counter for a day or two, and then cut to the chase by throwing them away.

Some success

I can, however, grow flowers and trees. The things I have planted on my property have flourished. Maybe I picked easy-growing varieties. Maybe it was sheer luck. I’ll take it either way – I love the look of flowers in the spring and summer.

Still, every now and again I yearn for the garden of my ancestors. There is a nice spot to the side of my enclosed porch that could easily be turned into one. My mind will wander to a future filled with green and lush vegetables on the vine. I imagine going out in the morning to pick that day’s harvest, and having a nice salad or side dish that grew right here.

Then I come to my senses. It’s not going to happen. I will have to rely on the kindness of friends who have both green thumbs and a surplus. You all know where I live. My house is the one – despite my best efforts – with zero zucchinis.