Vegetable gardens part of summer life in early Dayton, as now

Zucchini is a boost to the amateur gardener's ego. Almost overnight you are blessed with zucchini ready to eat raw or cooked, pickled or sweetened, boiled or fried or baked. To keep from being overwhelmed, zucchini can be frozen or shared with friends. In the past, however, I have had good friends who speak to me the rest of the year, draw their blinds and lock the door whenever I came with more zucchini.

This year is no exception. When you start picking two or three nice squash every day, it doesn't take long before there is no more room in the refrigerator for other goodies. The other squash in the garden sort of hang back and let zucchini show off. It's hard not to like the prolific plants. The beautiful dark yellow blossoms show off every morning. If you know the difference between the male and female blossoms, you can eat the flowers. It won't affect production if you eat the male flowers. The male blossoms grow on long upright stems while the female blossom produces the vegetable. Try dipping the blossoms in batter and deep fry.

Now, I'm not sure how long zucchini squash has been around. I have a cook book written about 35 or 40 years ago that features this vegetable in about 150 recipes. I have used some of them and find them good enough to eat and repeat, anywhere from dessert to main dishes.

I think the reason folks were healthy around Dayton in the old days is because people ate a lot of vegetables. Dayton pioneer Emma Nevada Loftus wrote about eating a lot of veggies. Zucchini squash was one of the early spring plants. She reported in her diaries when gardens had to be replanted because of frost and those pesky cows of Zenas Walmsley. But the folks were persistent and replanted as long as it took to get a garden going. Once they got the garden going they usually were able to harvest a lot of good produce.

Emma's friend who lived in the Sacramento Valley sent her vegetables and nuts around the holidays; large packages of goodies. She in turn sent pine nuts to all her friends. During WWII she sent pine nuts to the boys overseas.

Well, I'd better close this article up and go pick the zucchini. It may overwhelm me if I don't.

The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. Hours: Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m. The Web site is daytonnvhistory.org. Group tours are available.Call 246-5543, 246-8382 or 246-0441. The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets at noon the third Wednesday of each month. Please call for location. Visitors are welcome.

• Ruby McFarland has lived in Dayton since October 1987, she serves as a board member of the Dayton historical society and a docent at the museum.

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