By Daris Howard
St. Anthony, Idaho
It’s that time of year when people need to lock their cars. It’s not because there are a lot of criminals running around stealing cars.
No indeed. Rather, it’s because of goodhearted neighbors who want to share their bountiful harvest. Especially with this year’s bumper crop, leaving a car unlocked in my neighborhood is an invitation for someone to stuff it full of zucchini. Though other vegetables are apt to be included, zucchini always seems to be the worst offender.
Some neighbors, at least, have the goodness to call and leave a message informing you of their indulgence on your behalf. But others like to sneak it on a person, fearing that if they confessed, someone might reciprocate.
My sister-in-law, Sharon, recently had a good year for tomatoes. She and her family had eaten and canned so many that they’d begun to feel their skin take on a slightly reddish hue. That’s when she decided it was time to share her blessings.
But tomatoes are not something that can be abandoned in a car on a warm day. They tend to disintegrate and melt into the seat fabric, and for months a person is left with the feeling of driving around inside a ketchup bottle.
So Sharon did the only decent thing she could do under the circumstances: She started calling everyone she knew. When that failed, she began canvassing the neighborhood like a politician, eventually finding a neighbor delighted at the prospect of fresh produce. “Feel free to take whatever you want,” Sharon told her.
Later that day, when Sharon arrived home from work, she found that her garden had indeed been harvested. She felt happy that she could help someone and that the food didn’t go to waste.
A few days later, Sharon answered the door. There was the neighbor, holding a piping hot loaf of some kind of sweet bread. The warm, spicy scent made Sharon’s mouth water. The neighbor smiled pleasantly. “I wanted to thank you for all of the tomatoes, and I have to admit that I took a few other things and hoped you wouldn’t mind.”
Sharon couldn’t think of anything else in her garden that had been worth harvesting and said as much. “Oh, but you did,” the neighbor said. “You had some of the prettiest zucchini I’ve ever seen.”
Sharon was confused. Zucchini in her garden? They hadn’t even planted any zucchini. Could there have been one rogue zucchini that sprouted up in some corner of the yard? Sometimes the garden held those little surprises, but Sharon couldn’t imagine where it would be.
But her neighbor insisted that there really were bright-green zucchini in Sharon’s garden. They weren’t huge, but they were succulent and ripe, with a nice yellow tinge.
Sharon’s curiosity got the better of her and she had to go see where the zucchini had grown. The two of them walked together into the backyard and over to a vine that was growing near the tomatoes. When the neighbor pointed at the long green vegetables, Sharon smiled.
“Well, actually, those are cucumbers that we never harvested, because they got too big, soft and bitter for eating or canning.”
The neighbor looked at Sharon, shock written all over her face. She gulped a few times, and then, smiling, held out the bread, part of a batch she had shared all over the neighborhood. “I brought you a nice loaf of cucumber bread. I hope you like it.”
This garden joke played out with a case of mistaken vegetable identity.