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Beware of fraudulent cucumbers

Each year about this time a sense of duty swells up like a bunion, and I feel it’s my duty to warn anyone new to the community about incoming zucchini.

Plus, it’s August, hot, and I’m limited in my excursions, so what else should I write about but summer squash for a squashed summer?

People must have a love-hate relationship with the vegetable (fruit, as it turns out) because it’s a perennial garden resident. Case in point: My dear neighbor, Susan, asked if I wanted some cucumbers. She and Rick had grown more than they wanted, so I said sure.

Later that afternoon I noticed a shadowy figure leaving a bag by my front door. I took the bag into the kitchen, opened it to view the bounty, and what do you think? An imposter reclined smugly among them. It was a zucchini cleverly disguised as a cucumber. Very tricky, Susan and Rick.

Oh, it was about the same size and color as a cucumber alright, but clearly this was a vegetarian version of the ugly duckling story. I ate most of it cut up in salads, no big deal. I hardly knew it existed. Then, she brought more “cukes.” Thought I might make some quick pickles. Sure enough, another stealth zucchini. This morning I had some mingled up in a veggie and Swiss cheese omelet. It’s sort of like tofu — spongy, and you can put it in any dish, where it quickly becomes one with its surroundings. So, it’s good for bulk, that and target practice.

Hayward, California, is the World’s Zucchini Capital, unless you ask the folks in Windsor, Florida. They each hold zucchini fests every August to honor the bland menu item — a tradition I would hardly relish sharing when someone asks what is up in my town. But Windsor raises money for their fire department so, bully, I say.

The first lowly, yet prodigious zucchini traveled from northern Italy by ship in the mid-1800s, disguised as a breadstick. Zucchini are so prolific they are widely known as the rabbit of the botanical world. It is said that the first gardener growing them just took a zucchini in hand, pointed to the earth and the rest is history.

They can grow to be nearly 40 inches long and feed up to 30 people at a buffet, or 40 if 10 or more won’t touch it. Like the equally prolific but far more flavorful tomato, they are actually a fruit, a berry if you can believe it. And why should you since much of what I’ve just written is utter drivel? They are the swollen ovary of a zucchini flower. TMI?

You might be better off eating the flower before it gets a chance to produce, which gives me a guilt pang. Squash blossoms are dipped in a light batter and deep fried. Of course, zucchini sticks are as well. That’s when you can dip them into ranch dressing and say you’ve had your daily vegetable serving, except that it’s a fruit, remember.

If you think the virus cloud is getting to me, you’re right, but there are worse possible symptoms than making fun of zucchini. Eat your salad.

Peggy Dover is staring out the window. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.