Every year, my nemesis has been the squash vine borer, a moth that lays its eggs on the stems of zucchini and Hubbard squash (but not butternut squash). Those eggs hatch into larvae that tunnel up the stem of the plant, killing it. Some people cut open the stem and remove the larvae, then bury the stem, but that’s never worked for me. I tried putting Vaseline on the stems and laying down aluminum foil or old CDs to discourage the moths, but they were oblivious to my efforts.
I vowed that this year would be different. I delayed planting some of the seeds to try to miss the moth’s prime time. When the plants were young, before they flowered, I covered them with a cloth or “row cover” that let in sun and rain but not moths (after they flower you need to remove the row cover so that bees and other insects can pollinate them). I covered up the stems with straw mulch.
Behold, I have zucchini! And they will provide the base for winter soups instead of tomatoes, which have been decimated by blight this year. I used to find zucchini soup too bland, but this year I discovered a recipe for Curried Zucchini Soup (see below) that has an intense flavor. Betsy has been cutting up some zucchinis and freezing them. She also likes to grate them and saute with garlic for a distinctive spaghetti accompaniment.
My flowering zucchini plants have had an unexpected benefit. In July, the blossoms were attacked by cucumber beetles, and every morning I went several times to the garden armed with tweezers to kill them. It was easy because they have nowhere to go in a squash blossom, unlike a cucumber blossom, from which they can fly away. I must have killed over 100 of them. These beetles are particularly nasty because they spread a disease that causes cucumber plants to wilt and die. But it doesn’t seem to have the same effect on zucchinis, which functioned like a “trap crop.”
Next year, I may leave the row covers on longer, removing them for only a few hours in the morning to let in the bees. But then I’d probably lose my cucumber crop!
CURRIED ZUCCHINI SOUP
2 T butter or oil
3 ribs celery
1 t curry powder
3 lbs zucchini
6 cups chicken stock
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
Saute the carrots, celery and onion in the oil before adding the zucchini. Cook until zucchini is soft, then add other ingredients. Puree in a blender. It freezes well. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of cream, but I didn’t use that, instead putting low-fat milk in as I’m serving.