When I see that a zucchini blossom has broken off its stem and is lying on the mulch starting to rot, my heart skips a beat.  Are the vines getting enough phosphorus?  Is some disease afflicting them?  Has a rabbit been nibbling on them?  Then I look closer and see that the stem from which the blossom has fallen is long and spindly and bears no budding zucchini; it is a male blossom.  Having made its pollen available to the local pollinators (mostly bumble bees, in our neighborhood), it has performed its function and can retire.  There are more male blossoms than are needed and losing a few is not a big deal.  In fact, the male blossoms can be harvested and eaten and are considered a delicacy by some.  We have never had enough of them to make it worthwhile.

Despite the losses, the east zucchini vine has many blossoms (of both genders) and two developing squashes (each with its female blossom still attached).  The west zucchini plant has fewer blossoms and only one actual squash but its leaves are larger, fuller and more plentiful.  Both plants look healthy but the west plant is more abundantly so.  Jay, a farmer we know, suggested last year that we pick the first fruit while they are still small—in his experience, they never fully develop—and we will keep a close watch to choose the right moment.

Speaking of Jay, the lemon cucumber plants we bought from him started out much smaller than those we purchased at the local garden center but after a month in the garden, they have caught up to their cousins.  Everyone in this branch of the family (the Cucurbitaceae family, that is) has produced many bright yellow blossoms—more diminutive and demure than the those of the flamboyant zucchinis—and almost as many miniature cucumbers.  If they all ripen at once, we will be in trouble.  Glorious, bountiful, delicious trouble.  We may harvest some while they are still small (gherkin size) to moderate the flow and if we have too many to eat fresh, we’ll try pickling some of them.

We harvested the first bunch of beets this evening.  The roots are still smaller than we expected them to be while the greens are larger.  They are also whiter than we imagined—more white with red than the other way around.  Nonetheless, they are beautiful.  The roots are subtly sweet and it is easy to believe that there are varieties of beet that are used as a source for refined sugar.  Rachel sautéed the chopped roots and greens in extra virgin olive oil, adding only a clove of garlic, a splash of Marsala and salt and pepper to enhance their flavor.  They were divine.

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