Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beware the Invasion of the Abominable Mutant Ninja Zucchini

 Beware the Invasion of the Abominable Mutant Ninja Zucchini  
Ah, the joys of gardening. When the winds and snows of January beat against the northwest corner of my house, I sit snug at my dining table surrounded by an array of seed catalogs, each photo designed, arranged and enhanced to induce lust in my heart.

At first perusal I blithely mark anything and everything my heart desires. The second time through, I eliminate all but that which can be coaxed into growth in zone three. This leaves a fraction from which to choose, but still, I dream new gardens into becoming.

I pick, purchase, wait, plant, wait, nurture, wait, water, and wait some more. If the plant is a flower, and if it actually survives, you would think that I had given birth to each blossom. When the plant under my scrutiny is a vegetable, finally, O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!  At last the peas or cucumbers or tomatoes are ripe for harvest.

In this inhospitable year of late frosts, intemperate heat, dearth of water and gargantuan grasshoppers, I watch helplessly as my pitiful garden, gasping for another shot from the watering hose, shrivels and dries.  

While even the tree leaves hang wan and listless in the drought; one exception, oasis of green in the center of my desert garden, shoulder high, stands the dauntless zucchini.

It is beyond me why anybody in their right mind would plant a zucchini squash. But, in the insanity brought on by winter fever, I picked up a bedding plant at the first opportunity. I am not greedy. I contented myself with one plant in a four inch pot.

It grew. Now, every morning, feeling like Indiana Jones, armed with a machete in one hand and a .357 in the other, I wade through the jungle of umbrella leaves into the center of my zucchini vine, shove aside the humongous squash blossoms, and twist off those vegetables which grew overnight. I am faithful in this task because I like my zucchini small and tender. If I let one go for two days, it grows out of bounds.  Every day for the past month I have feasted. I have an entire cookbook dedicated to zucchini. I stuffed bagsful in my freezer for bread, cakes or a winter vegetable treat. The overflow I try to give away. Enough already. I am satiated. But my plant shows no sign of abatement.

These days, when my friends see me coming, my arms filled with zucchinis, they lock their doors. I have tried disguising them in bouquets of hollyhocks or day lilies. It doesn’t work. There is nothing for it but to leave the remainder to overwhelm. There must be something I can do, some possibility I have left unexplored.

Since none of my Montana friends will answer their phones when “Zuchinni Woman” calls, I dialed a friend from Washington. “What shall I do?” I asked.

“Hmmm. You could slice one in half lengthways, hollow it out and use it for snowshoes,” he replied.

“Brilliant,” I said. “Oh, my gosh, the larger ones could be made into wading pools for children.”

“Or stock watering tanks for horses and cattle,” he offered.

“If one hollowed them out in the same field where one needed the watering tank, the seed would lie dormant through the winter, sprout in the spring and grow a new tank for next year,” I said. By now I wriggled with excitement at the possibilities. “I could carve out canoes with which to float the river.”

“Or create yard art with your chainsaw,” added my friend.  “Grizzly bears and timber wolves. You could sell them at the Farmer’s Market in Havre.”

I closed my eyes and drifted into la-la land. I saw myself, like Johnny Appleseed, trekking the fertile valleys, sowing my prize giant zucchini seeds wherever I went, lauded in song and story, statues erected in town squares, my name to be engraved forever in history.

But wait. What if my dream back-fires? What if, just what if, this seed of mine is an escapee from the engineering labs at Monsanto, a reject, a mutant similar to the flesh-and-blood eating Audrey Jr. from the movie, “The Little Shop of Horrors”. Instead of praise, I would be reviled throughout the land. Men in bio-suits armed with napalm would dog my footsteps, futilely trying to eradicate the monsters I unwittingly set forth to multiply. Oh, the horror!

But wait again. How do I know? How can I tell? Do I have a precious prize? Or do I have a freak? What is that elephantine zucchini, so prolific in my garden? Until I know for sure, I must protect it, guard it. So if you see the razor wire fence with umbrella leaves poking above it, please keep out.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
August 16, 2012

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