There’s Something Growing in my Mulch Pile
My mom taught me not to be too quick when pulling out weeds in the garden. She said to wait a bit and see what was growing. In the spring I am often gifted with flowers that self-seeded from plants that grew the year before. I’ve shared blue columbine that came up on its own with other gardening friends, moved moss roses, violas, snapdragons and impatiens to places in my garden that benefited from an extra splash of color. I’ve filled hanging baskets for free with plants that I would’ve pulled out as weeds if I’d been too quick with the trowel.
The only vegetable plants that I’ve discovered coming up on their own are tomatoes; either cherry tomatoes or Romas. Every gardener I’ve ever known who planted cherry tomatoes one year had plenty of self-started seedlings the next. Winter before last was warm enough that my Swiss Chard roots lived and sprouted new leaves in the spring.
But this year was different. There was something growing in my mulch pile.
It grew and grew then started vining. Soon it had taken over the whole area and even worked its way through my backyard fence into the neighbor’s yard. It was at the back of his lot and went unnoticed for a few weeks. One day, when we were both working outside, he came down to the fence for a chat. That was when he saw The Plant. He was pretty surprised and I couldn’t help but imagine it reaching out and grabbing ahold of his ankle. Once he got over the shock of The Plant, he said to let it grow and see what would happen. The way it vined over the ground and sent out tendrils to grip the fence, a tree stump, and some rocks, made me think of The Little Shop of Horrors.
The Plant had crept out of the ground, grown fast and was getting really large. I swear, it covered more ground from one day to the next. Then it bloomed; yellow trumpet shaped flowers like a squash. I saw bumble bees gathering pollen, but The Plant wasn’t setting any fruit. Then one day I saw a couple of dead bees in the dirt. I got a creepy feeling up the back of my spine and the hair at the nape of my neck tingled. Did The Plant kill them or was it the wasp spray I’d squirted into the corners of the shed?
One of my gardening friends said I would probably get gourds if anything. Even if the plant had sprouted from a squash seed, it was probably hybrid and genetically altered. There was a good chance the plant was sterile and unable to produce any fruit or seed. And maybe poisonous to bees too, I thought. Sometime in September The Plant stopped growing. It covered a good 100 square feet or more.
The nights were getting cold and after a couple of light frosts I decided to start cleaning out the garden. I picked the last of the cherry tomatoes and set aside a couple for seed. The green beans came out. There were a few bean pods I missed picking that had grown long and too tough to eat. The basil was frost-burned but the Swiss Chard was still doing fine. I let it grow as long into the fall as it could. It is so nice to cut fresh leaves to chop into a salad or omelet.
Then I faced the mulch pile. The Plant was partially hidden by maple leaves that had fallen off my neighbor’s tree. I put on a pair of work gloves, grabbed two handfuls of vines and pulled. They seemed endless but I kept pulling. Up came one green striped vegetable and then a second. They sure looked like summer squash to me. I picked them off the vine and set them on the kitchen counter.
Once they had started to yellow, I stoked up my courage, cooked one up and made squash patties. They were delicious. Now I’m waiting to see if I end up like the bees. It’s been a couple of days and I’m feeling fine, no symptoms to report. I think I’m in the clear.
1 cup cooked, mashed squash 1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion ¾ teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper ½ cup flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder Cooking oil
Combine mashed squash, egg, milk, sugar, onion, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix baking powder into flour and then add to squash mixture, mixing well. Pour oil into a skillet to the depth of 1/8 inch. Heat until a small drop of water sizzles. Drop squash mixture, by heaping tablespoons full into hot oil. Flatten patties a little with a spatula. Cook until golden brown, turn and brown the other side. Makes about 4 servings.
- Posted in: Just for Fun