23 Sep Slapstick Gardening
The Sicilian squash known as cucuzza reigns as jokester king of the vegetable world. Here’s how it works: You had more of these 3-foot-plus squash than you could possibly eat or give away last time, and so a couple of falls ago you just dumped a couple of the drying gourd-like bodies at the end of a garden bed, figuring if the seeds inside took root they would quickly die in the ensuing winter.
That was 2013. The seeds didn’t take root. That year.
This august a couple of them did. By this time prickly pear cactus was growing over the top of the new squash seedlings, a condition they quickly reversed. By the time I spotted them, they were about 8 feet high, jumping (in the vegetative sense) from the cactus to the lower branches of a pecan tree.
Seven or so weeks later, the cucuzza vines stretch about 35 feet up into the 45-foot pecan tree. It became really noticeable when the underside of the tree canopy started sporting fat green baseball bats.
Cucuzza is tasty, served up in a variety of ways you aren’t allowed to experience unless you marry a Sicilian. I could tell you, but you can imagine what would happen to me if I did.
This year’s big cucuzza joke is that the vines are loaded with delicious fruit, almost all of which are so high in the tree that they cannot be harvested, even with a ladder. It’s true that I have been able to find a way to nab a very few of the elusive squash. Just this morning I climbed atop my longest ladder and used a long-handled fruit-picking gizmo to separate two cucuzzas from their stems. Whereupon they promptly fell out of reach and onto the ground, each cracking in half.
You could sense mirth emanating from the nearby cucuzza tendrils. Pretty sophomoric, really.