Friday, September 18, 2009
by kale daikon
Hey kids! I've been huffing and puffing in mountain movie theaters and writing my brains into hominy for many many days now for various other commitments, but I'm squeezing out a little extra oompf before this week ends for a late summer version of Name that Vegetable. [Yes, in San Francisco we all agree that September is really summer.] Our winter-time pop quiz was the tricky Turnip or Rutabaga, but now you get to test your vegetable acumen by identifying which is the cuke and which the zuke in the above photo!
a brief diversion while you think...
that is a zucchini frying in a pan.
that is a cucumber being dressed for its salad.
Ding! Egg-timer's up. The one on the left gets sizzled and the right-hand looker gets drizzled. If you guessed correctly, go slice yourself a summer squash variant of your choice. If not, feel free to do the same. How else are you going to learn to identify things accurately?
I had thought the Armenian cucumber was the most curious of cukes besides that lemon doppelganger, but was intrigued by this slightly sweeter serpentine, which I'd never before laid eyes on, lying next to its paler Armenian brother at the Heirloom Organics stand at the Ferry Plaza market.
The striped zucchini lay not far away, and I put the two together in my basket because they gave me warm thoughts of these two black-and-white polka dot socks I have that originally come from different pairs and are almost identical if you don't look too closely. (One is a little more faded and baggier than the other, but secretly my favorite because I think it was worn by my sister as a moody teenager in the '80s.)
If you insist on inspecting them more minutely, here you go:
Both cucumbers and zucchini (Italian for "little squash"; Brits prefer the French "little squash," which is courgette) are members of the Cucurbitaceae or cucurbit family that includes squashes, melons, gourds, pumpkins, basically all manner of these round or elongated seeded creatures that creep along the garden floor with their hairy tendrils. The cucumber is shinier and juicier, and thus cooler than its denser zucchini neighbor, whose tougher flesh makes it not as enjoyable to eat raw.
If I were the mad botanist designing this couple's lovechild twinset, I would call them Cucchini and Zucumber. They would be charmingly sweet and agreeably juicy yet tough enough to withstand the worst taunts at school.