E is for Extra

It’s that time of year in the vegetable garden. Now is the season of bounty in the squash patch. You know how it is – the zucchinis are being fruitful in a frightful way. There is more fresh produce than you can humanly eat. Or inhumanly, for that matter. The freezer is brimming with fresh-frozen vegetables for the winter.

Naturally, you want to share your bounty, the succulent fruits of your labours. You offer the extra zucchini, vegetable marrow, or spaghetti squash to your gardenless friends and neighbours.

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That’s when you get THE LOOK, closely followed by a sigh of martyrdom. If you are lucky, one among your friends, let’s call him Bob, will deign to take a single zucchini. His body language will speak volumes of the personal sacrifice he is making and the enormity of the favour he is bestowing.

Some time ago, I wearied of the squirming that people did when I offered produce from my garden. I accepted that most people do not understand the difference in freshness and flavour between store-bought and home-grown vegetables. I also reminded myself that normal people don’t eat their veg by the plateful. My new strategy is to state that my garden is producing and, if anyone wants anything, they have only to ask.

Ask? The silence from all, including Bob, has been deafening, and I have taken to recycling the extra squash on the compost heap.

Imagine my surprise when I heard that the Food Bank wanted fresh produce. The signs by their donation bins always request Non-Perishables.

First, I went to the website for the local food bank. Yes, one of their pages said they would take extra garden produce. Still, I was wary. Surely at this time of year, they would be buried under extra zucchinis. This year my spaghetti squash is going particularly insane, so it’s a good year for squash in our area. I picked up the phone and called the Food Bank.

“Um, I don’t know if you have too many already, but I have some extra squash in my garden,” I said. “You probably don’t want any, do you?

The fellow on the other end of the call said, “We would love any extra produce you might have.”

“Oh? Oh! OK,” was the best response I could muster.

I went into my garden and pulled out eight spaghetti squash, loaded them into the paniers of my bike and my daypack, and pedalled them across town to the food bank.

They were thrilled. The young man who helped me carry them into the food bank from my bike thanked me sincerely. A woman who had come into the food bank to help out spotted them being carried into the back room. Her eyes sparkled as she, too, thanked me.

Since then, I have taken in a second batch of six spaghetti squash and a bag of Swiss chard. Today, I will take in another load of squash. It turns out extra is not a dirty word. Who knew?

In case you worry that the compost is feeling lonely, neglected, and abandoned – fear not. There are plenty of weeds to be added to it and, any day now, I will do just that.

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E is also for elf, eel, and elk. Youngsters can discover this at my video, “Letter E and the Secret Window.”

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