Picking squash last week, I thought to myself: I am so glad I don’t pick squash for 8 (or more) hours a day, 5 (or more) days a week. I do love farming and especially harvesting and even enjoy the summer squash harvest, BUT I figure I owe squash an ode (or at least a blogpost) for all the negative thoughts that may have been sent its way during the past month. After all, we will have a break from the three staples of recent CSA shares for a couple of weeks as we enjoy other summer-time bounty.
Squash, Zucchini and Cucumber harvest is part of the routine of summer. We have to harvest these items THREE times a week in order to get the right quantity and quality of fruit for distribution on Thursdays. In addition to the repetitiveness of the harvest, it’s not the easiest job for a couple of reasons. One being, the squash vegetable family (cucurbits) are difficult to grow in Kentucky due to fungus and disease and tromping through a field in the wet-morning dew touching plant after plant will spread disease quickly. Therefore, we must harvest in the heat of the day, usually after lunch when the plants are sure to have dried off considerably. Second, the squash plant is prickly! The tiny thorns on the stems of the leaves can tear you up if you’re moving your bare arm down in and out of the heart of the plant picking fruit, causing your forearm to look like it got in a cat fight or even develop a mild skin rash from the irritation. Therefore, it is advised to wear long-sleeves during squash harvest (remember its in the middle of the day). And thirdly, just as you know squash and zucchini can be very heavy! Bending over to harvest, reaching into the middle of the row and lugging around heavy bins can be exhausting. And once its picked, the work is not over yet. Then it must be sorted, counted, and packed into the cooler awaiting another lift into the truck and a final lift out of the truck at distribution (those cucumber bins can weigh over 50lbs!).
So just when you think you’ve had enough squash, zucchini, and cucumbers…remember its a short season, try to enjoy one more loaf of zucchini bread (or freeze the rest) and think of those that do harvest squash zucchini and cucumbers for more than a few hours a week, for a few weeks out of the year.
And I don’t mean to emphasis the negative. The fresh and delicious crunch, tender flavor, and versatility make squash and zucchini essential summer vegetables. My favorite way to eat summer-time squash and zucchini is grilled, but then again stuffed squash is also tasty, raw zucchini sticks in hummus, squash casserole, or sautéed vegetable medley on tortillas can make any summer meal feel fresh and delicious.