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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: August 26, 2020

Too Much of a Good Thing

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

One of the very best things about moving back to Wisconsin is the gardening. I take no credit for the fact we are having bumper crops this year. I think it was great weather and Mike's judicious use of the tiller, but we are picking beans five times a week, can see a tsunami of tomatoes coming, and the cucumbers"..well, the cucumbers are nearly a full-time job for me.

I preface my comments about the astonishingly prolific cucumbers by stating we do not plant zucchini. I do like them, baby ones are great in stir fry, and I have a recipe for zucchini quiche we both like. But as anyone who lives around here knows, zucchini grow like the national debt. Gardeners who do grow it soon run out of ways to use it. They make the pickles, shred it into breads and bury it in chocolate to disguise it, but you can't eat your way out of zucchini production even if you have ten kids. You have to distribute them far and wide, and still end up flinging huge ones that appear literally overnight into the shrubbery (where, at least at my house, even the deer, who eat literally any human crop, won't touch them.)

So people who raise zucchini always have some in their vehicle and they proffer them at gatherings, during business transactions and through a sort of vegetable "secret Santa" where you find them on your porch, in your mailbox or in your unlocked vehicle. Honestly, I think we could solve world hunger with zucchini, especially if someone could come up with a variety that tasted really good!

Last year we had 3-4 hills of cucumbers, and had a nice supply for our table and some to gift to others. But they had some sort of blight, and we really could have used a few more. So this year we have five over-achieving hills.

I have made refrigerator pickles, freezer pickles and we eat them for lunch, snacks and at dinner. I have now taken three big bags to my Wausau sister-in-law to give away at her condo complex. I have given them to my mom and sister, and offered them to others. But everyone seems to have enough this year, and I am still picking about 10-20 a day, with dozens of babies growing on the vines.

Cucumbers are delicious and since they are 95% water, very low calorie. I think I burn off the calories from eating my fill of cucumber just picking them. (For maximum nutrition you should eat the peel. On young cucumbers it is not at all objectionable. ) The most popular use of cucumbers, though, is our beloved pickles. Even children who won't eat plain cucumbers normally like pickles.

I picked cucumbers yesterday, filling a big basket. Many of those are sliced up in vinegar brine and/or cut up and refrigerated for snacking. There's a big heap left on top of the counter waiting for processing. Today there were a couple dozen more of a size that dictated immediate harvest.

I mulled over trying to find a food bank, but that would involve an hour round trip car journey, unappealing with the rest of the things I needed to do, and decidedly un-environmentally friendly. (I pictured the food bank flooded with zucchini, with two rented warehouses across town loaded with them and more being brought from home gardeners via dump trucks.) No, it would be good to check into this and combine it with my next trip to "town," but I needed a more expedient solution to my cucumber problem today.

Ah! Church tonight! I told Mike I was going to fill a grocery bag with cucumbers and leave it at the church entrance before Mass that afternoon. He wisely suggested labeling the bag "free cukes," because otherwise people would assume it was a new clever ploy to get rid of zucchini. Good point! I wrote on the front of the bag in big letters, took the short drive to church and abandoned the bag in the covered entryway like an unwanted infant.

Later that afternoon, my Des Moines sister in law and her husband stopped in for a socially distanced visit. I went out to the garden and found a dozen more cucumbers for her!

I know in two months I'd give anything for fresh cucumbers, when all that will be available is the perfectly unblemished, straight, dark green and tasteless ones coated in wax at the grocery store. But for now, I am treading water in the onrushing flood of cucumbers, unwilling to waste a single one and plotting my next move " maybe leaving some in unlocked cars. And I am deeply grateful I don't have zucchini to cope with too!

Book I am reading: "Strangers in Their Own Land" by Arlie Russell Hochschild. A celebrated sociologist and author writes about the heart of our political divide. My sister recommended this book. We owe it to ourselves and our country to try, really try, to understand and be compassionate about our differences. That can be uncomfortable, but our country would be much better off if more of us were willing to listen to the perspectives of others and not just be loud and proud about our own views.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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