Last year, volunteer squash plants mustered all over my garden, and I left a few of them and hoped for delicatas or butternuts. I’d certainly put plenty of delicata, butternut, and acorn squash carcasses in the compost pile. Well. Acorn squash plants took over the meeting and talked over everyone else. They zipped over to the grapevine and asked for directions to the county line. I had to resort to buying a butternut plant but it was completely intimidated by the acorns, which probably kept it up at night growing boisterously, and it withered away.
This year I got the usual fleet of squash plants, assumed they were acorns, and bought a butternut squash early. I planted it in a corner of my bed and pretty soon an acorn squash volunteered to guard it from the other corner. The butternut was quickly overwhelmed by the acorn, which put out leaves the size of baby blankets, but it was still alive, and flowering. Yay! The acorn squash plant set about a hundred fruit and the butternut was shooting blanks.
This is where you get to brush up on your flower sex. The first thing I thought about majoring in was botany, because I was so thrilled by learning about stomata pores (cells shaped like paired buttocks, complete with a hole in the middle), and botany is basically about sex, but really? Not as arousing as I had hoped.
But it’s straightforward. You gots your male flowers and your female flowers and the male stuff needs to get in the female stuff. It would be cool if there was some tendril loving involved but instead they farm the labor out to migrant bees. We have plenty of bees, and the acorn squashes were partying away, but no butternuts. It was suggested I might look into servicing the flowers myself. All that was required was to figure out which flowers were male and then shlorp the powdered jizz over to the females.
|I don’t know what the hell this is.
The female flower was described as being plumpish around the base, with bumps surrounding a central hole. I can remember that. All righty then, what does the male flower look like? Peer inside and there’s your anther. Artificial squash insemination involves whacking off the anther and then “gently rubbing” it over the female parts.
This sounded interesting.
I had nothing penciled in for the afternoon (“Nothing,” it said on my calendar) and looking for squash blossom wieners is a lot like doing nothing, only with the promise of butternuts. And I found them. Lots of them. All of them. Where were my female flowers with their bumpy cucurbit bits? You need the female flowers. Have a bunch of male flowers gathered around and all you get is a mess of pollen everywhere.
This was all sounding pretty familiar. The red-legged frogs we help across the highway are the same way. For a few weeks it’s nearly all males, eagerly hopping downhill boing boing boing to get to the wetland and practice mounting something. Eventually the females, looking tired and bloated, start down. Bloop. Bloop. Bloop. You don’t sense ardor. You sense resignation, and a sincere desire to dump the egg pudding.
Maybe the female squash blossoms are holding back too. Maybe they’re hanging around outside the mixer to see who goes in and whether he’s worth it.
The next day I saw it. A genuine green butternut squash hanging off the edge of the bed. It had shot right through the acorn squash plant and out the other side.
Clearly, trying to get away.