Thursday, June 4, 2009

Zucchini triumph!

Would you believe? A few minutes after I sent my appeal Monday for a zucchini male, Renee, only a block away, made an offer. Some of you may remember visiting her open garden on April 25. She had one reservation. She has no zucchini, just yellow squash.

Oh, well. I'm not against mixed marriage. Off to Renee's garden I hurried. There was one lonely male with no female companionship. I picked him, and introduced him to both my females. I can now report that at least one of those unions was successful, possibly both, but the one he met second is not growing as fast. We will have a squash dinner this weekend (and maybe Renee's family too if the other continues to grow at an only slightly slower pace).

Judging by the responses, many of you don't know much about the sex life of zucchinis. I will now explain that titillating subject. Someone wrote regretfully he had "only one." I doubt this. Zucchinis don't have male plants and female plants like holly and kiwi. They don't even need two to tango, like earthworms, who must snuggle together in a symmetric way to generate babies. (Have I told this list my earthworm love story?)

Each zucchini plant has male flowers and female flowers. You can tell which are which when the buds are little. The buds with a tiny (quarter inch in diameter) zucchini fruit behind them are female. The ones with skinny stems are male. When the flowers open, it is more obvious which is which to anyone who knows the Facts of Life, as I suspect all readers do. Anyway, flowers open about sunrise (at least they are open by the time I get up and out in June), and they close about noon. All activity must happen during that brief time. I was overjoyed that Renee responded so quickly. If nothing happens, the small zucchini behind the female flower doesn't grow. We had the one who was not satisfied on Sunday with our salad this evening,
small but quite nice.

Nature's plan is for bees, as they accomplish their own purposes, to pick up some pollen from the male flowers, and rub it off on the female openings. The pollen has to reach the female in order for her to grow into a full-sized zucchini that a human would like for dinner. Suspecting that the bees aren't as motivated to accomplish this as I am, I often pick a male and make sure the females benefit from his services.

Most years the male flowers start in early June, followed by female flowers much later. Until two years ago, I ate my first zucchini on June 26; zucchini was the most punctual vegetable in the garden. Two years ago it was June 25 and last year June 24. This year's probable June 7 is a dramatic sign of climate change -- with its nice twists in the temperate region. Since the woodchucks have eaten the second crop of broccoli seedlings that we bought after devouring the ones I raised from seed, it is something of a consolation to have zucchini so early. Still...

I suspect that our dinner Sunday will be actually zucchini and the yellow squash would have had its impact only if we had allowed the seeds to germinate instead of being eaten. I'll let you know after it is picked.


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