(Host) The challenges of garden bounty cause Stephanie Greene, a freelance writer living with her family on a farm in Windham County, to consider the nature of necessity.
(Greene) I've spent the summer trying to foil a young, but voracious woodchuck. He was a veritable Houdini at getting inside my garden, even conquering the elaborate fences I built around raised beds and pots. It was demoralizing. He adored young beans,would go along my tomato row taking a bite of each, as if he was at a pricey all-you-can-eat buffet. And he was crazy about tender zucchini leaves.
So I had pretty much resigned myself to taking this year off from the frenzied pickling, baking and roasting that a bumper crop of zucchini usually demands. Then a friend turned up with not one but five enormous specimens, the size of bowling pins. She intercepted my badly disguised look of horror by telling me that I should see the one she'd left in her garden, the size of her leg and showing no sign of slowing down. She was promised a share of the bounty and I set to work.
I made zucchini pickles, salsa, zucchini bread and muffins, soup and baked zucchini sticks, then finally a roasted veggie pizza, featuring - tah-dah! - zucchini. It was all quite delicious, but it was a ton of work. And as the canning pots bubbled away, I wondered why, exactly, I was doing it.
Well, first it reminded me of my mother, a master at corralling me and any friends she could into long, unbearably hot sessions stirring cauldrons of ginger peach jam. I miss her most at this time of year.
Then there's the desire to be more self reliant in the food department, enjoying the thrill of locally grown food cooked imaginatively.
There's also the challenge of incorporating this maligned butt of seasonal zucchini jokes into interesting dishes people actually savor.
We recently went to a vegetarian restaurant in New York City 's East Village called Dirt Candy. Each dish is comprised of three or more variations on one vegetable. The mushroom dish had a cube of portabella pate, sauted shitakes, a pile of toasts and a tiny dab of pear chutney to offset the mushroom stacks you build.
So I am inadvertently au courant. But mostly my cooking blitz was about the thrill of nature-driven necessity.
When the garden (not necessarily mine) responds with bounty, it's only right to make grateful and inventive use of it. Just as I secretly rejoice in being snowbound and I have to cancel my little human plans when nature trumps them with a blizzard.
Oh, the woodchuck: I finally broke down and bought a live trap, baited it with cantaloupe, of all things, and caught the young chuck in six hours. He was very cute, and I imagined even a little remorseful. Despite the fact I hadn't carefully studied the release mechanism, let alone practiced it - before misplacing the directions, you understand - we managed to introduce Mr. Chuck to the joys of camping on a remote corner of our land.
I suppose after stuffing himself all summer on my bounty, he's rediscovering necessity as well.