Developing a very green thumb for zucchinis

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Spring is in the air, or so they say. For our house, spring arrives early every year. It arrives in January, in our mailbox: seed catalogs! Every year, we receive a bountiful supply of seed catalogs that have followed us from address to address over the past half-century.

Forty-six years ago, we moved to Illinois after spending four years in Iowa and four years in Michigan. Pastor Pete was eagerly looking forward to planting a garden and tending to the acre of yard that surrounded the home in which the “Reverend lived.”

Every January, the seed catalogs would start arriving and Pastor Pete would spend hours going through each catalog, comparing prices, sketching out his garden for the next summer and dreaming of flowers, carrots, and onions. I used the catalogs to line the birdcage.

The farmer who owned the land around the parsonage had plowed out a section especially to be used for the “Reverend’s garden.” After spending eight years walking through piles of snow, suffering through the humid summers and slipping on black ice, we were ready for a new adventure and a garden seemed to be just the thing to do.

My experience with gardening was very limited. As an elementary student, I tried to grow some radishes. You have to keep in mind that I didn’t even like radishes but my mother assured me that they grow fast and fast-growing is what I wanted. Every day I watered, weeded and talked to my upcoming harvest but nothing happened. My brother stood to the side and laughed. His carrots were growing quickly but my radishes were doomed.

Finally a few sprouted. I think the others washed away in my daily flood of watering. When my day of harvesting arrived, I proudly carried my bounteous supply of four radishes for our evening dinner salad. My brother carried in his bucket filled with carrots. I knew then that gardening was not my gift.

To this day, my gardening has only consisted of putting four toothpicks in a sweet potato, filling a mayonnaise jar with water and inserting the sweet potato into the water.

I did try to help Pastor Pete in his Illinois garden by weeding, planting and harvesting the crop.

There was a day that I decided to surprise him by weeding the garden while he was working at the church. He came home for lunch and I proudly showed him how I had weeded his garden. His only comment was “What happened to the two rows of carrots?” I did share with him how amazing it was that the weeds were growing in a straight row.

Pastor Pete was sure that if I became involved in actual gardening, I would learn to not only love to garden, I might even learn to love to eat vegetables. I decided to give it a try but I wanted to do it all on my own. I am an independent woman and I don’t need help!

I asked my best friend Sylvia what the easiest vegetable to grow is. The answer came quickly…Zucchini!! The first thing I learned is that zucchini is a squash. I only eat one kind of squash, pumpkin ….when it’s made into a pie! But I wanted to meet the challenge of having an awesome green thumb and pumpkins aren’t green.

I went to the Feed and Seed Store and bought a package of zucchini seeds. Actually, I bought two packages because I noticed that the package said “Contains 10 seeds” and I knew I wanted to grow more than 10 zucchini so I bought two packages.

When I got home, I found that “my section of the garden” had been prepared carefully and was ready to be seeded. I did feel it was a bit large, 10 feet by 10 feet, so I planted my 20 seeds spaced quite far apart. The zucchinis in the grocery produce section were only eight inches long at the most. I had plenty of room for 20 zucchinis.

Two weeks later, I proudly showed Pete the results of my work. Twenty small plants were peeking out of the dirt. I was a farmer! But this didn’t stop there. The plants kept growing and spreading. They invaded the soybean field next to our garden. They found a way to wind themselves around the corn stalks of our neighbor’s garden. I learned the hard way that one zucchini seed didn’t just produce one zucchini. They produced an entire family!

I would pick one zucchini and another two would appear. I stopped watering the plants but it kept raining. I tried pulling up one plant but the plants were so entwined together that I was sure that they were calling a mutiny. It was me against the zucchini.

The zucchinis had now taken over my life but I was not to be defeated. I made zucchini brownies, waffles and pizza. I fried, baked and boiled zucchini. I made zucchini butter to put on my zucchini bread. I am happy to say that I have developed a very “green thumb.” I use it every time I count out the cash to purchase all the fruits and vegetables that I purchase at Tom’s Farms.

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Pat Van Dyke