Shoehorned amidst snow, flood, fire and smoke lurks a fifth time of year in the Methow Valley: Zucchini Season. This time period forms the backdrop of the dramatic re-enactment known as “Zucchini Season: A Play in Four Acts.”
Act One brings the diligent building of mounds, as the intrepid gardener lovingly forms domes of fertilized soil within which the seeds of summer squash shall germinate, eventually resulting in cylindrical vegetables in the Liberty Bell school colors of yellow and green (coincidence or conspiracy?). Our protagonist, the gardener, inserts a number of seeds proportional to the number of mounds, strategically calculated to produce peak yield in the height of the harvest. A few weeks later, barring irrigation ditch delays, June frosts and pocket gopher kerfuffles, the mounds showcase golden blossoms and lush green vines.
Act Two foreshadows the season’s bounty; zucchini enter stage right. They’re tender and young, with delicate green skin cloaking a firm, flavorful interior. The gardener samples one while standing over the mounds. Cooking is not necessary; these finger-sized squashes hold their own as a raw vegetable. An ensemble of friends and neighbors accept the gift of a handful of courgettes as if receiving an agrarian windfall, featuring them prominently in their stir-fry dinners.
The central conflict reveals itself in Act Three. The plants begin to produce squash at a pace the gardener cannot keep up with, despite both diligence to the harvest and dedication to the kitchen. Grilled zucchini (thick slabs marinated — tastes like steak!), spiralized zucchini (butter and parmesan cheese — tastes like pasta!), zucchini bread (butter and sugar — tastes like cake!), zucchini muffins (more cake!), and German chocolate zucchini cake (actually cake!) overwhelm the household menu.
Neither heat nor smoke deters the outward and upward mobility of these summer squash. The grateful recipients from Act Two reject continued advances from the gardener, traitorous in their refusal to assist with the surplus. Supply exceeds demand and the gardener, alone in the hero’s agricultural journey from which no one emerges triumphant, lags behind. The struggle is real.
In Act Four the gardener admits defeat. Toddler-sized zucchini languish in the shade of the mounds, partially hidden in the riot of leaves and vines. Culled from the plants, these behemoths lie like cords of firewood, their rinds too tough to be tasty, their marrow grown pulpy with age. The butt of jokes — a box of zucchini baseball bats dropped on a neighbor’s porch, notched squashes stacked log-cabin style — the zucchini is July’s darling and August’s outcast. Curtain call finds the gardener laboring under the strain of a wheelbarrow load of squashes, destined for the compost.
For an encore, maybe we could bring back the zucchini car races.