In spring we introduced an experiment by Peter Harris of Latham to turn a zucchini into a tree (Kitchen Garden, October 26). My zucchini variety of choice, followed by others, was "Blackjack" so when "Black Jack" took line honours in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race we thought we were winners. My plant kept flowering and producing baby zucchini but they failed to thrive. Others had a similar experience - was it the rainy, grey days that affected low bee pollination. My plant is growing taller.
Fellow zucchini enthusiast Jenny Cooper emailed recently. We had met at the National Arboretum Friends' Christmas party sitting beside the music trio, with Paulene and Helen from the First Canberra Garden Club, for wine and nibbles.
Jenny and husband Bob Cooper who live in Yarralumla planted four Blackjack zucchinis, with two staked and two growing as normal because she was concerned that Blackjack might be too vigorous to cope with the staking. All went well until January 22 when the two unstaked zucchinis, growing along the soil, died within two days of each other. Did the stems rot due to excessive rain?
Her staked zucchinis are still going strong with a continuous supply of fruit since December 1 and no powdery mildew. The advantage of the tree zucchinis is that the fertilised plants are slower growing into giant marrows than when on the ground. For the ties, Jenny cut a hem from an old bed sheet, strong enough to hold the stalk in place without cutting into it and easy to untie and re-tie higher up. Bob hammered in the stakes and provided a "third hand" to support the stem while Jenny tied the bows. He also helps with providing mulch and the eating.
On Sunday, March 20, a large group gathered at COGS in Cook to celebrate 21 years of that community garden. Entering the gates, in the first plot are mammoth zucchini leaves. I was told that the gardener mostly likes to eat stuffed zucchini flowers rather than the fruit.
Garden convenor Peter Weddell welcomed plot holders, former committee members, and friends of the garden. Tara Cheyne MLA launched a 24-page book From Bush to Bounty which gives a short history of the COGS Cook Community Garden from 2001 and foundation years to establishment - as author Julie Gorrell says "a testament to the hard work, enthusiasm and commitment to organic gardening".
There is now an orchard and a smart pergola over a paved area. Since 2018, the garden has supplied excess produce to Canberra City Care. The sense of camaraderie is strong. I was pleased to see lots of former Kitchen Gardeners including Mario Serenellini, Adrienne Fazekas, Michele Barson, Alan Robertson, Mervyn and Liz Dorrough.
Well-known garden/horticulture expert Keith Colls, foundation convenor, gave a rousing speech and plot holders Janet Popovic and Raz Stephens told stories about the early days. A ribbon and huge cake were cut, champagne was served with delicious savoury and sweet treats all cooked by plot holders. A highlight was squares of vegetable tart made by Raz Stephens which were eaten in a flash.
2 large zucchinis, sliced
handful of silver beet/spinach
small red capsicum
2 spring onions
3 cloves garlic
small chilli (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 sheets puff pastry (store bought)
[Note: other vegetables such as grated carrot can be included.]
1/2 cup cream
1. Slice the zucchini and pan fry in a little olive oil until just a little brown, set aside. Crush or chop garlic and all other vegies and saute them in the olive oil until just cooked through, season with salt and pepper - set aside to cool.
2. Defrost the puff pastry and place one and a half sheets on a greased flat baking tray. With a fork, prick the pastry all over. With the rest of the pastry, cut it into into strips of 2-3cm and brush with a bit of water and place the wet side neatly on the edge of the pastry on the baking tray to create a framework/barrier for your tart.
3. Preheat oven to 200C and bake the pastry for about 15 minutes, to precook before you fill it with your ingredients. (You don't need to blind bake).
4. When done, line the pastry shell with slices of zucchini then spread the rest of the vegetables over the zucchini to cover the whole shell. Beat three eggs and half a cup of cream and spread evenly over the tart, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and ground nuts (optional, fried shallots from Asian store).
5. Bake on medium heat for 25 minutes or until the bottom of the pastry is crisp (time depends on your oven - check often).
6. Slice up and serve as snacks or lunch with a leafy salad.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.