“Ugh,” my sister exclaimed one evening as we were making dinner. It was supposed to be an easy poached chicken with a ginger-scallion sauce, eaten with cold cucumber wedges, and we had just discovered that what we had bought at the store was not cucumber, but zucchini. It was an easy mistake to make — they were the precise same shade of green. But where the zucchini’s skin was mostly smooth, the cucumber’s was lumpy. We were not happy.
Let’s consider, for a moment, the many faults of zucchini. As a plant, it’s prone to vine borers and squash bugs — among the most disgusting of all garden pests. Yet despite these weaknesses, it generally manages to be depressingly prolific, and under the leaves there’s always one that hides until it’s the size of a baseball bat — a big, green, cottony-tasting baseball bat. As mentioned, it looks like a lump-free cucumber, which means that where your teeth expected crisp, cool rigor, they find starchy blandness instead. Any kid will tell you that a raw zucchini is tasteless yet somehow sort of slimy. When you cook an overly mature zucchini, the watery flesh breaks up around the pulpy seeds, which you eat mainly so no one can plant them and start the odious cycle all over again.