It all happened so quickly. About two weeks ago, our one bed of mixed variety summer squash was just starting to produce. Here in the Valley, early June is already high summer. I filled the crisper with firm and amazingly not chewed-on by critters specimens…yellow crookneck, Eight Ball squash, yellow zucchini, and Mexican squash. Then we were cat-sitting for a week and some more went into that fridge. Now it’s cooking night and the haul has become a mound that threatens to consume the counter like The Blob!
If you have the time, money or space to grow only one vegetable this season, summer squash (Cucurbita pepo) is the best return for your investment. You can learn about growing and different varieties here. We spent about $12 on seedlings (yeah, you can grow from seed if you got the time) and $6 on a bag of compost (yeah, you can make your own if you got the space). We watered a couple times a week and just can’t believe how much food these 6 plants are producing.
I have photos of our whole family holding giant zucchinis that our mom grew in the garden of our suburban Arcadia home. They were HUGE! Summer squash is one of those things that fellow gardeners will politely decline to take off your hands. Everyone has too much. You will leave anonymous bags of them on neighbors doorsteps. You will ignore them in the fridge till they rot. After a dozen loaves of zucchini bread, you’ll need to get creative. Recipes abound! My favorite food podcast and website The Splendid Table has some delectable ones here…and there are some scrummy-looking ones at Dishing Up The Dirt. Try pickled raw slices. Just use your favorite pickling recipe and substitute for the cucumbers…ours is Alton Brown’s bread and butter pickles but I add lots of onions and jalapeno slices & cut the sugar in half. Shamefully, the most obvious way to share extra squash didn’t occur to me (even though I’m positive it’s been mentioned by fellow gardeners) until recently. Food banks welcome fresh produce! If you are in Woodland Hills stop in at the West Valley Food Pantry.
Looking into a bed of squash that has been allowed to go wild is mesmerizing. Like a little forest it’s hollow stalks reach in all directions to create a shady canopy, fuzzy and dry. Butterflies flutter (beautiful and magical little fuckers that started out their lives eating my stuff!) and grody squash bugs creep around when you water and try to shelter at the tips of the leaves. Ladybugs. Bees on the flowers that some people think are delicious but I just don’t find them to have enough flavor to justify disposing of a bunch of frying oil. Squash can get really dehydrated and droop. You’ll think they’re done for but deep water them and…3 days later you have a 10 foot long behemoth! Someday I’m gonna bring a cooler, umbrella & a timelapse garden cam and try to see the squash grow.