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James and the Giant Zucchini


My husband, James, is passionate about many things: boat-building, the seaside, painting, wine-making, and growing rhubarb, zucchini and giant pumpkins.  

However, the spatial constraints of our Toronto courtyard garden, where the genteel David Austen roses, clematis, lilies, and sweet peas were cosseted and thrived, left no room for the brute and thuggish pumpkins, rhubarb and zucchini. They were definitely ‘vegetas non gratas’, and no amount of winsome longing or petulant pleading would change that.


When we moved and had a larger garden, it was with characteristic passion that James planned a rhubarb, pumpkin, and zucchini patch. Why rhubarb, giant pumpkins, and zucchini? They are legendary for vigor, offering the grower guaranteed success. Well, it’s either that or a Freudian ‘Id theory’ like, ‘He who has the biggest squash wins’.


The patch was dug, the seeds and plants installed. Mulch was spread and the rows watered; and that ended his passion for the project. He gained satisfaction. I gained another garden to weed. I now understand why, when he was ten, his mother gave his dog away.


In the end, the deer sampled the rhubarb and infant pumpkins, spat them out, but not before uprooting the entire plant. Unfortunately, they didn’t favour the zucchini with similar attention.


 I had my hands and fridge full keeping-up with the rate of their production, which I managed by using the blossoms for fritters and inventing palatable ways to use the squash without resorting to 1970’s ‘Birkenstock Zucchini Bread’.


 But, In the end, zucchini got the better of me. I turned the patch over in the fall, breaking-up the giant, rampant squash. I know this may only bring them back to haunt me next spring, but I hate losing, and now it’s personal.


As for James, he has acquired a new passion, the Italian cook, Biba Caggiano. He stood in line for two hours to get her signed book for my birthday. The smitten fool returned with two of them, both dedicated to someone named ‘Francesca’.


 Well, whoever this Francesca occupying James’ furtive imagination is, I wish she’d materialize and weed that damn zucchini patch!  



                                                                         Baked Stuffed Zucchini     

                                                                       Serves four as a side dish


  • 4 small or 2 medium zucchini

  • 2 green onions or small bunch chives

  • 2 plum tomatoes

  • ¼ cup cooked peas

  • 4 stems fresh mint or fresh basil

  • 4-5 oz. pancetta diced or 1 link Italian sausage removed from casing (optional)

  • ½ cup cooked bulgur wheat or couscous 

  • 8 ozs. bocconcini cheese, cubed

  • ½ tbsp. olive oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste



  • Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, and scoop-out flesh with a grapefruit spoon

            being careful to leave a margin of flesh inside each half    

  • coarsely chop the zucchini flesh and onions,

  • cut tomatoes in half, gently squeeze pulp out and discard (or freeze to add to soups etc.)  then coarsely chop flesh

  • sauté meat in a tsp. oil until lightly browned, add vegetables

  • sauté until vegetables are just soft, add chopped mint, or basil, salt and pepper to taste

  • remove pan from heat, add bulgur wheat/couscous and cheese 

  • blanch zucchini in boiling salted water for 3 mins., drain and pat dry    

  • fill zucchini with vegetable mixture, bake in a 375 oven for 20 mins. until cheese is melted and zucchini is tender                                                                                               

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