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Search starts for the greatest zuke

Jacob Thompson, 10, shows off the big zucchini that he grew in his family
Jacob Thompson, 10, shows off the big zucchini that he grew in his family's Freeland garden. He's hoping to take first place at the fair.
— image credit: Patricia Duff

Jamie Summerland is just 6, but even at her tender age, she seems to already have the drive of a super gardener who is destined to live up to her sunny name.

Jamie lives in Coupeville and is a first-time entrant in the Island County Fair’s giant zucchini contest. Judging starts at noon Sunday, Aug. 19, in front of the 4-H Building on the fairgrounds.

Taking first place in the green bean and white bean categories on Thursday in her age group, Jamie was excited to cut her prize squash from the vine to compete for the title of heaviest zuke.

She’s been working on her big zucchini since planting the crop in May. She crinkled her nose at the secret ingredient: chicken manure tea.

“That’s how I feed it,” said Jamie.

“I planted four maple trees, too,” added the young gardener, who quickly went on to mention that her favorite animals include cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and horses. She said she fell for the guinea pigs at the fair on Wednesday.

“I want a guinea pig,” she said.

Joanie Crowther is the 4-H gardening superintendent and a member of the Island County Farm Bureau. Crowther will be judging this first giant zucchini contest.

“Well, I’ll be the one weighing the zucchinis, but the scale is the real judge,” Crowther said.

It’s the heaviest zuke that will take the prize regardless of length or appearance.

“They absolutely do not have to be beautiful,” Crowther said. “We wanted to keep it simple.”

Crowther said that the contest, which is co-sponsored by 4-H and the Island County Farm Bureau, is meant to encourage families to garden together. In addition to the individual categories for age groups, there are also categories for entry as mother and child, father and child and grandparent and child.

“There are many people who would like to participate at the fair who can’t raise steers or sheep,” said Crowther.

“Giant zucchinis are something everyone can do.”

Jacob Thompson is positive he can do it.

The 10-year-old is proud of his entry, one that he said looks to be about 10 pounds.

He planted his zucchinis in June along with the rest of the family’s Smuggler’s Cove garden that has an impressive array of vegetables, including a patch of more than 8-foot-high corn stalks and some tasty looking onions.

Jacob’s mom Pam said he has been saving his big zuke for the contest and the waiting has been the hardest part. There are now little mice teeth marks in his beloved courgette that can’t be cut off the vine until the day of the contest. Needless to say, Jacob is anxious to get his entry away from the mice and onto the scale.

Meaghan DeWolf is another 10-year-old who has her sights set on the zucchini championship.

“It’s just fun to do, I like to garden,” said the Freeland girl.

In addition to entering for her horticultural abilities, Meaghan is also an entrant in a mind-boggling variety of categories including 4-H goats, 4-H geese, baking and painting. She also appeared in the Whidbey Children’s Theater production of “Cinemagic” that ran for three performances on Thursday at the fair.

Meaghan’s abilities are as prolific as the squash-family vegetable that has been the butt of many jokes about its overabundance. Growers are forever in search of new ways to use the zucchini and Crowther is encouraging contest participants to take their veggies home and make some bread or soup.

“Zucca” is the Italian word for squash with the plural form being “zucchini.” Its presence in America originated from the influx of Italian immigrants who made their way here during the great migration from Europe after the turn of the century.

It looks like it’ll be a fruitful day at the fair for zucchini lovers.

Zucchini contestants can register up until 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the fair.

Patricia Duff can be reached at 221-5300 or pduff@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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