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Late at night. A car door slams. The sound of running feet, followed by a thump on porch and running feet again. The car speeds away. A light flashes on in the house. The front door opens, and a wail of despair as the resident sees what the vandal has done. Yes, it’s National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.

Zucchini Vandalism in Full Swing

Late at night.

A car door slams. The sound of running feet, followed by a thump on porch and running feet again. The car speeds away.

A light flashes on in the house. The front door opens, and a wail of despair as the resident sees what the vandal has done.

Yes, it’s National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.

It’s that time of year, when people with gardens are desperately trying to deal with nature’s bounty. It’s always feast or famine with a garden – decide that, by God, this year you’re going to get tomatoes, and plant a dozen, and it becomes a bumper year for tomatoes and you’re drowning in the things. Plus, since all your neighbors did the same thing, not only do they not want your tomatoes, but they’re trying to give you theirs.

This year, for example, is thus far a rotten one for tomatoes, what with a cold, wet spring, broiling hot temperatures, and now more rain. On the other hand, it was a fabulous year for apricots. My two trees end up bearing maybe once every three or four years. Typically an ill-timed frost murders the little darlings. But when it bears, does it bear. It is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice of fuzzy golden balls. Unfortunately, everyone else’s trees are doing the same.

Can them, everyone says. Make jam, make butter, make pie filling.

There’s a couple of problems with this approach. First is that the time of year when the garden is exploding is typically the time of year when the thermometer is exploding as well. Yes, when it’s 105 out is just the time you want to be peeling fruit, stirring a batch of jam, and hunched over 20 gallons of boiling water to sterilize jars – because if you don’t sterilize them properly you will DIE YES DIE AND TAKE YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY WITH YOU.

Which is the other factor that’s put me off canning. Yes, the ward house across the street has canning classes and I’m invited to attend whenever I like, but I’ve been in the place before where it’s just me and twenty pounds of peaches facing off across a kitchen table and it’s not a position I like to be in. One of the best Christmas presents I’d ever gotten was from a couple of friends who invited me over to make a variety of marmalades from their lemon tree. Sadly, I didn’t know a similar group here.

I’ve discovered, however, a couple of ways to deal with the problem.

The first is Craigslist. A couple of years ago, when I had a surfeit of quince, I offered to anyone that they could have my quince; all I asked for in return was some of what they had made. I ended up with a jar of apple-quince sauce and a slab of quince paste (which at this point could be used to repair the roof, but never mind).

Apricots, however, are more in demand than quince. I made the same offer this year, and several people jumped on it. I’d gotten three jars of jam already, when I heard back from another person, who had gathered more than 60 pounds of apricots from my two trees. I ended up with a carton full of jars of jams, nectars, pie fillings — and a jar of plum jelly for good measure.

The best part, though, was discovering that this person represented a group. Turns out they’d been looking for an opportunity to gather a whole lot of fruit and have a marathon canning session like this, and were looking forward to doing it again — and would be fine with having another person join in future sessions. Upon hearing this, another couple volunteered, adding that tthey had both plum and peach trees.

I can hardly wait.

About Sharon Fisher

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6 comments

  1. Sharon,

    Thanks for this, it’s delightful.

    I can put you in touch with a friend in Burley who is eager for me to spend a day/days/week/weeks helping her can. I lost interest after calculating that the lovely canned tomatoes would cost me about ~$25 a quart. I’ve opted to keep my day job & buy canned food at Winn Co. instead.

    Several years ago I thought I could save money by going hunting. Then someone described the process to me. Until I figure out how to get the dang thing to load itself into the truck I’m going to go on sneaking up on it in the frozen food aisle.

  2. Ah, August. The hottest month of the year and yet you have to roll up the windows and lock the car doors when visiting the relatives lest one sneak out the side door and load up your back seat with zuccinis.

    I really don’t know where Sally came up with the outrageous sum of $25 a quart for home canned tomatoes. Growing and canning tomatoes is much cheaper and less labor than growing a lawn and much better for the enviroment.

  3. Excellent question! Thank you for allowing me to talk about my unhealthy relationship with math & spreadsheets.

    Cost of taking time off from work + driving to/from Burley = cost of canning.

    And I’d only be helping so I’d only be able to take a sampling of the goods.

  4. IN Western Oregon, the zucchini deal is about the mega size ones. The joke ones. The ones that raise eye brows. So I asked the two gals who walk by my alley every day on the way to the tavern, to please pick some lettuce and take it home. I have plenty. They work in a hot tub factory, and the younger partner is laid off, so maybe they need some lettuce. The older one always puts our papers on the porch in a box when we are not home. So they said great, and how about some zucchini…I said ok, but small ones. I have never been able to do anything with the monsters that seem to show up. And they told me that you take one, halve it length wise, hollow it out, and use it for the baking dish in which to bake a meatloaf. Wow! Does that work well! Sort of like edible pan…well, you know. You are never too old to learn something.

  5. I have run some zucchinis through the yuppie grinder and tossed them in the freezer on the theory that I will make zucchini bread at Christmastime, when it is cooler out, and give it to the neighbors who show little interest in my zucchini at present. Other zucchinis I try to pick and eat when really small–they taste better and then I don’t have as much volume to deal with. However, they do tend to grow from pencil-size to forearm-size overnight, so I’ve not always been successful with this approach. I’ve been cutting up the mega zucchinis and putting them in the compost bin, but since they tend to get highly fibrous (not to say woody) when they are very large, I’m also thinking of allowing some to grow until they come to a natural stop (assuming they do) and using them to replace the siding on the house.

  6. In Lewiston it is necessary to keep your car locked least some one fill the back seat with zucchini. Horses love zucchini.