By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
A little bit of garden lore …
Friends of the Market volunteer Mary Peryea, whose story about creating a pollinator friendly garden is featured in this coming Friday’s Saratoga Today, also shares this story about her efforts to try growing zucchini, in a moderate way:
“I must admit that I purchased a zucchini plant from a big box store. I got lots of blossoms, but no fruit. In talking with a local farmer at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, I learned that my single plant could have all male blossoms, all female blossoms, or was not being pollinated. Who knew? I’ll bet one of the plant vendors at the farmers’ market would have known and would have advised me to buy more than one plant. Lesson learned.”
After hearing about Mary’s experience, I got curious. Every year that my husband and I have grown squashes – summer as well as winter – has produced a different experience. Sometimes, it seems that we have several plants but only a handful of squashes. Other years, it seems that maybe three or four yellow crookneck squash plants will give us a bountiful array of fruit all summer. What did squash blossoms have to do with this?
I went to the Internet in an effort to learn more about squash blossoms. I found a wonderful story from Faith Durand’s blog, thekitchn.com, that detailed the botanics of squash blossoms. Durand reports that squash plants tend to produce more male than female blossoms, and that while the female blossoms will produce the plans, some male blossoms are necessary to fertilize the female buds. But if there are more males than females, it doesn’t hurt to nip off some of the male buds to cook up or use in salads.
In this sense, it does make sense to never plant just one plant. A six-pack, which is what is typically found at farmers’ markets, helps guarantee success. Except …
Advice from Rich, a carpenter and artist and musician and third-generation farmer, who works with Paul Moyer of the Old World Farm, has me thinking otherwise. He told me that he eschews planting in even numbers. “Even if we have to kill a plant,” he says, “we’ll always do an un-even number.” When I asked him why, his response was simple, “Nature. Nature favors uneven numbers.”
So, as our season of planting evolves toward harvesting, consider tucking this advice away for future years. And, in the meantime, snag one of those super-sized zucchini from the farmers’ market and try this recipe for a vegetarian lasagna, made with zucchini strips standing in for pasta noodles: click here.