By Mary Peryea
Last summer, I made an attempt at gardening by planting one zucchini and two tomato plants. I’m a big fan of tomato sandwiches and all things zucchini, especially moist, luscious zucchini bread. Well, the tomatoes did okay and I had plenty of sandwiches. The zucchini, on the other hand, was a great disappointment.
The plant grew and even flowered, but no fruit appeared. Jim Gupta-Carlson, a local farmer and volunteer with the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, suggested that perhaps my plant had only male flowers, or that maybe the flowers weren’t being pollinated.
I turned to Google and learned that zucchini plants typically have male and female flowers. The male flowers appear first when the plant is young. Female flowers appear later and have a young zucchini at the base of the flower. In order for the fruit to develop, pollen must get from male flowers to female flowers. This is usually done by bees, but if not, the plant can be hand pollinated. This involves transferring the pollen via artist paintbrush or q-tip early in the day. Not being an early riser, I knew this would not work for me and resigned myself to buying zucchini.
This year, I was determined to grow my own zucchini, come hell or high water. I purchased a lovely little organic zucchini plant at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, and planted it, only to see it get eaten by rabbits. I was crushed. However, the Master Gardeners at the market suggested that I might still be able to get some zucchini if I kept the plant in a container.
So I bought a beautiful Black Beauty zucchini plant – actually four of them – to replace my lost one. I have planted them in a large pot, and put it on my deck, safe from the ravages of the bunnies. It has budded and bloomed. So far I see only male flowers. No zucchini in sight. I know the blossoms and leaves are edible, but I want a zucchini! Preferably, a lot of zucchini.
I’m hoping for a late frost and some zucchini to come.
If you love zucchini as much as Mary Peryea, now is the time to get it at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market: 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at High Rock Park. Also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.