musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

vegetable with a plot...

Ah, summer. One of my favourite things this time of year is shopping at the Farmer's Market on Friday mornings. By now, in late July, all the stands are loaded with fresh, colourful fruit and vegetables and the air fairly zings with the pungent scent of basil. It feels good to support local growers while stocking my pantry with feasts for a week.

Fresh vegetables and fragrant basil at
Sherway Farmer's Market in Toronto

There was a time, though (long ago and far away), when I wouldn't dream of eating vegetables I hadn't grown myself. Back in the mid-70s, I was a transplanted city girl, part of the back-to-the-land invasion of the countryside north of Toronto. Hubby and I embraced the country life, growing acres of vegetables and fruit, and tending a Noah's ark of livestock that, from time to time, included rabbits, pigs, chickens, sheep, and ducks.

We crossed the creek every year at first thaw to tap sugar maples, slogging home through the muck with buckets of sap and boiling it until the walls of our little house dripped sweetness. We feasted on puffballs and fiddle-heads, gathered in early spring from the woods beyond our field. And every May 24th weekend – traditional last frost in our part of the world – we'd get to work planting row upon row of vegetable seeds and hundreds of tender seedlings. (Those we'd started months before in makeshift kitchen window greenhouses.)

Planting done, I'd take a break from garden work, leaving weed control and cultivation to my husband and young sons, watching for sprouts to push out of the soil, then impatiently waiting for the first mouth-watering leaves of lettuce, baby carrots, sweet peas, and oh, the tomatoes!

On hot summer days at the farm I often imagined I could hear those tomatoes growing ripe on their vines – Bonnie Best, because my father-in-law said they were the finest he'd ever tasted. By August, there'd be a full chorus of impatient vegetable voices, "pick me, pick me!" I harvested and canned several bushels of tomatoes every year. Beans, too. Three long, straight rows of green and yellow beauties, plump to bursting and perfect for the freezer. And zucchini! Rampant in its corner of the field, the zucchini always seemed to be eyeing the corn patch, plotting invasion. And why not? It had already conquered my kitchen.

Zucchini, four weeks after planting day.
Think it looks innocent? Don't turn your back!

What we didn't grow, we could usually get in barter with local farmers. Rabbit for goat's milk, cabbage for pumpkin, zucchini for ... well, nobody ever wanted to trade for zucchini. We ate it in soup and in stew, in muffins and bread, baked, barbecued, broiled and fried. Even on pizza. And we gave it away by the armful. That probably explains why zucchini is the one thing that rarely makes it into my Farmer's Market shopping basket these days. 

In case you find your kitchen invaded by hordes of marauding zucchini this summer, here’s my Mom’s easy recipe for cinnamon zucchini bread. Enjoy!*

Phyllis Cooke’s Cinnamon Zucchini Bread 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Generously grease and flour 2 loaf pans 

3 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 (heaping) tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups grated zucchini (optional)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts 

Directions: Mix together eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar and beat well. Sift dry ingredients together, then add to egg mixture and beat well. Stir in grated zucchini (and walnuts, if desired). Divide mixture between two loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool on rack before turning out of pans.

*Note: It has been my experience that a single plant will produce enough zucchini to bake 153,233 loaves. (Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit. But only a bit!)

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At 9:53 am, Blogger Sandy Cody said...

What a wonderful life on the farm you describe. Not easy, but satisfying. I agree that visiting farmers' markets is one of the joys of summer.

At 4:12 pm, Blogger Sheila Seabrook said...

Ah, zucchini! I once planted a single plant in the middle of my flowerbed, then tried to contain it by snipping off the runners. Turns out that the runners produce the zucchini (who knew!) and by harvest time, I discovered that the plant had put all of it's energy into the runners and one single little zucchini. Last time I ever tried to grow it. Now I stick to tomatoes. :-)

At 6:05 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

Sandy: I am pretty sure the memories of that time are a polished up version of the reality. It was a lot of hard work, for sure. Great experience, though.

Sheila: Too funny! Looks as if our zucchini experiences were polar opposites - feast and famine. I would gladly have sent you some!

Thanks for visiting, ladies!

At 8:54 am, Blogger Kathye Quick said...

I love the dreaded zucchini. I have to grow the plants on my upper patio because the critters eat all the flowers if I try to plant a garden on the ground. SO now I have no where to sit, but lots to eat. Which may explain my middle.

Going to try this recipe. Sounds wonderful.

At 10:31 am, Blogger Sydell Voeller said...

Cheryl, what wonderful memories of the country life! I used to can everything I could get my hands on too. So satisfying to see all those rows of filled jars lined up in the pantry. I love this recipe for zuchinni bread. I've been using it for years.


At 12:57 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

Sydell, I loved seeing all the jars on the shelves, too. And remember that satisfying "pop" as the lids sealed? Even though I complain about too much zucchini, I think I may buy one this week, just to treat myself to some of this yummy bread. I might even make it with walnuts this time - my kids wouldn't eat anything with walnuts, so I missed out a bit on that added flavour.

At 12:58 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

Kathye - too funny! (That's my problem, too.) Hope you enjoy the bread.

At 5:40 pm, Anonymous Susan McNicoll said...

I am so impressed and wish I had been a neighbour back then because I just KNOW you would have shared. Distance creates a rosier picture than reality usually is but this still sounds like you had a good life and certainly a healthy one. I often wanted a garden but life just never presented itself that way. I also have not a green thumb anywhere! Thanks for sharing this. I love shopping for locally grown fruits and vegetables, plentiful in Vancouver.

At 9:28 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

Believe me, Susan, I would've shared those zucchini until you begged me to stop!
Thanks for reading!


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