Attack of the Summer Squash
We have a new rule at our house: Anyone who pays a social call lasting more than seven minutes must depart with some of our squash.
Since the rule went into effect, we have a lot of friends who come and get their business conducted while glancing nervously at their watches and saying things like, “Well, I really hate to rush off, but …”
And we’ve found they get huffy if one of us surreptitiously places a nice squash or two on the back floorboard of their car while the other occupies them in conversation. That could be why squash litter the edge of the roadway in front of the ranch. And it’s my job to get out there and clean them up before those seeds find a new home and begin producing more squash.
We’ve dealt with blackberries, yellow star thistle and camomile in the past, so we’re not easily overwhelmed by weeds, but it may be the first hard frost that pulls us out of this predicament.
Squash isn’t normally considered a “weed,” unless you apply the definition of “any plant growing in the wrong place.” Which this is.
It started when we decided to add on to our home, which meant a bed of miniature roses would have to be moved. These were plants I gave Felicia back when we were courting, see, and have special meaning. Happily, most of them survived the June transplant, largely because their roots were then surrounded by lush new soil from our compost pile.
That’s where we recycle the “deposits” left by our horses out near the tie rail, along with all of the kitchen scraps and everything else vegetative that has come to the end of its useful life.
Apparently, that included some nice patty pan squash from long ago, whose seeds suddenly burst into life as they shared the water intended for our roses. Actually, squash and roses make nice companion plants, with the rose blooms rising above the large green squash vine leaves.
At first we were delighted with the bonus of fresh squash. Felicia would come in with some of the little fruits cradled in her arms like kittens, smiling and saying, “See what we have now?”
Armfuls, though, became basketfuls. Grocery bagfuls. Something had to be done. Thus, the seven-minute rule.
We’ve exempted our horseback riding customers, the meter reader and UPS and FedEx personnel from the rule. It’s not good business to curtail your operation simply to dispose of squash.
Happily, there are some people who think that squash is a wonderful thing to offer as a gift. For them, Felicia has copies of a summer squash casserole recipe from her “Bluegrass Winners” cookbook, which we’ve found VERY tasty. (See sidebar.)
Yes, the recipe is absolutely laced with cholesterol. Folks in Kentucky snicker about our California phobias. One taste of this casserole, and you’ll agree it’s to die for. Or is that a poor choice of words?
We’re being visited this week by my cousin, Fran Germie, and her husband from Long Island, N.Y., and as vegetable lovers I thought they might be welcome recipients for some of our squash. “Bring some back to New York for your sisters!” I offer.
She politely demurs, however, saying she’d never get through airport security carrying squash big enough to bludgeon the pilots. And can you imagine her answering the, “Has anyone given you something to carry on board for them?” question at the ticket counter by saying, “Well, a man DID give me some giant squash …”
If next-door Pleasant Ridge School were in session, we might offer some to the school’s art program to see if they could be carved into funny faces or something.
Now our concern is what will happen when we go on a week’s vacation in September. We’ve tried to convince our children that THEIR children will grow bigger and stronger if they take home our excess vegetables. “You never outgrow your need for squash,” we say. They aren’t buying it.
What squash really needs is a good public relations program. A new image. Its English name just isn’t very glamorous. Suppose we borrow from the French and call it “courge.” Cour-jhay! Yes!
“A courge a day keeps the doctor away!”
We’ll work on it. Come on over and we’ll talk. Plan on spending at least seven minutes, OK?
Dick Tracy is an award-winning garden writer and photographer, Master Gardener and former president of the Foothills Horticulture Society. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
Summer Squash Casserole
2 pounds small, yellow squash
1 egg, beaten
1Z4 cup cream or evaporated milk
1 tablespoon sugar, mixed with 5 teaspoons cornstarch
1Z2 cup (1 stick) butter of margarine, melted
1 small onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Pare squash and cut into cubes. Heat 1Z2 cup water to boiling, add squash and cover pan tightly. Reduce heat and simmer until barely tender; drain well and mash. Beat egg with cream or milk; add sugar-cornstarch mixture and blend thoroughly. Stir in melted butter and chopped onion; fold in mashed squash and season with salt and pepper. Pour into a greased 2-quart casserole; bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
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