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Funny thing about gardening: you never quite know what you're going to get. You plant these seeds, you water, you weed, you try to keep the "bad" bugs from eating everything. You may even have to fend off your dogs, or the local raccoon or armadillo. And even then, you may not know what you're going to get.

I've been harvesting the bounty from my garden for a few weeks now. I'm getting mostly zucchini and cucumbers (anyone want a few pounds of pickling cucumbers?), because the one dog has eaten all my raspberries and strawberries, and the other has eaten all the ripe tomatoes. So, zucchini it is for me.

Last year, when I had zucchini, I went through, oh, I don't know, a billion zucchini bread recipes trying to find one I liked. Most tasted like bland cake, oh, with a few little green things in it. Most were pretty awful. James Pine decided to come to my rescue and offered me his zucchini bread recipe. As James doesn't offer recipes unless he really likes them, I was confident this would be a good one.

Last Saturday night, I decided to use the recipe and make two loaves of zucchini bread. I used the medium sized zucchini I had, which grated nicely into 3 cups of grated zucchini, exactly what the recipe called for. Like all good cooks, I tried some of the various ingredients, noticing the zucchini didn't taste too good. However, I didn't know this wasn't normal (when's the last time you tasted raw zucchini?), and made the loaves anyway.

After an hour of baking, the first one was ready. Out of the oven it came, out of the loaf pan it came, into several pieces it broke, with one going straight into my mouth.

And onto the floor.

It was the most god-awful, horrible, disgusting, bitter, nauseating piece of food I had ever eaten. It was bitter beyond belief. And the taste didn't go away. It lingered after two glasses of water and an apple turnover. It was horrid!

It was so bad, even the dogs who oh-so-carefully-so-that-momma-doesn't-notice took a piece out of the trash can, tried it, and spit out out across the room. PHOOEY!

It was bad.

The next morning, Sunday, I woke up to the world spinning at least 3 revolutions a second counter-clockwise. I was so dizzy, I fell on the way to the bathroom. Great.

After stumbling around, I made it back to the computer where I googled for "bitter zucchini." Lo and behold! What do I find? References about how bitter zucchini is really bad, and how eating zucchini that tastes bitter can make you ill. "Occasionally, a zucchini will contain a compound called Curcurbitacin E which makes the zucchini taste incredibly bitter. This bitterness should be a clue to stop eating said zucchini, unless you enjoy cramps, diarrhea, and collapsing.


After trying a few more zucchini from the only zucchini plant I have, and finding out all of them were bitter, even the really small zucchinis (large and over-ripe zucchinis are typically the bitter ones, not the small ones), I unsuccessfully called Kyle to let him know about the bitter zucchini (mostly in hopes that his family hadn't partaken of the evil, evil squash.

No such luck. Today, Kyle told me that pretty much his entire family was struck down with bitter zucchini diarrhea. His mom had cooked part of the zucchini earlier in the week, and the other part later in the week. Because the first batch was okay, they assumed the second batch was spoiled by the other squash they had purchased to go with the bitter zucchini of my garden.

Here's hoping they like banana bread, which will be my peace offering. I'm in trouble if they're allergic to walnuts.


Oh, it gets worse.

Turns out, Kyle's mom ate most of the bitter zucchini. She and Kyle's father ended up in the emergency room on Monday night. So, not just the runs, but also blood in the stool. They were throwing up all day. Kyle says this is history in the making, "I've never seen my dad this sick before in my life."

Great. Will they ever speak to me again?

Mark heard about the zucchini and decided to research the bitter zucchini phenomenom. Turns out, the substance Curcurbitacin E, which make the zucchini bitter, is used in chemotherapy (how? I don't know). Zucchini plants that produce bitter zucchini also have silver on the leaves, starting between two veins. Sure enough, what I thought was mildew was a thinning of the leaves, or silvering, indicating bad news on these plants.

Mark also said the plant should be encouraged as much as possible, as it's a fairly rare plant: 1 in a million or so.