FROM READERS: "Would you like a zucchini?" is question of the season

Friday, August 15, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:27 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 12, 2014
Joe Dillard shows a "zucchini baseball bat" in the making.

Joe G. Dillard, a longtime Columbia resident, wrote the book "A Full Cup of Joe," a humorous autobiography of his funny life experiences thus far.

Would you like to have a zucchini? 

Zucchini development timeline:

Monday – Pretty yellow blossom.

Tuesday – Nice young zucchini approximately 4 inches long.

Wednesday – Probably ready to pick at 8 to 10 inches long.

Thursday – Should have picked yesterday; it is now in the baseball bat sized category.

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This is an often heard question from your gardening friends about this time each year. (Actually, it sounds more like a command than a question.) 

Zucchini growers become very adept at distributing their wares. They usually start out offering them gently, but soon go to cajoling, getting downright pushy, or stoop to leaving them on doorsteps, putting them in random mailboxes or unlocked cars in the parking lot where they work. Some even send their kids door to door yelling, "Zucchini or Treat!"

It is a bit of understatement to say that zucchini plants are prolific. Some gardeners have said that even after you till under the plants, you have more today than you had yesterday. Some even have nightmares about a giant Zucchini that attacks them in the night.

So, my advice to you gardeners is to not plant too many. How many is too many you say? Some say that one is too many. But, my suggestion is to count up how many friends you have (better knock off a few that are hard headed), figure that they are good for at least two zucchinis each, divide that number by 5 to get the number of plants you need. As you can see (even from a math challenged person), you would have to have at least 5 friends to plant the first plant, that is if each plant only produces 10 zucchinis. Actually, these instructions should be printed in large font on the zucchini seed packets!

According to Wikipedia, “Zucchini is a summer squash which can reach nearly a meter in length, but which is usually harvested at half that size or less. Along with certain other squashes and pumpkins, it belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo. Zucchini can be dark or light green. A related hybrid, the golden zucchini, is a deep yellow or orange color.”

The article also points out that zucchini is botanically a fruit, more specifically the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.

O.K., you caved and took one. Now, what will you do with it? They can be baked, sautéed, grilled, put in salads, etc, but my favorite is Chocolate Zucchini Bread! Yum, yum. (Recipe available upon request.)

According to my friend Niki, there is even hope for the baseball bat sized ones. She says, “just wash and trim off the stem end. You can leave the skin on or peel off in strips. This helps hold it together while baking and looks pretty.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out all the seeds and discard. Coat the zucchini in olive oil, inside and out. Salt and pepper the cavity. Add stuffing to the cavity. Seal in heavy duty aluminum foil. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. If you have a topping that needs to brown, open the packet for the last 10 to 15 minutes. Cut into 3” slices to serve. You may want to discard the skin, since it will probably be too tough to eat.”

Stuffing suggestions: Almost anything. (Whatever it is should be cooked before stuffing the zucchini.)

  • Sausage and scrambled eggs with a cheese topping. Tip: Beat a little cottage cheese, garlic powder and basil in with your eggs before scrambling.
  • Browned hamburger and dill pickle slices or chunks, all mixed with Manwich sauce.
  • Sautéed vegetables in a light sauce of cheese and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.
  • Chili
  • Grilled fajita fixings
  • Mexican anything

In summary, when faced with the question, “Would you like to have a zucchini?” either take one or rush to the parking lot and roll up your car windows and lock the doors!

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.

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