Each summer my mother, Jean, bemoaned the zucchini crop that grew in near legendary quantities in every Italian American's garden, including my father's. The bumper yields haunted kitchens across the entire Lake Erie region of Ohio. How many times did my mother say to her husband in a maternal voice: “Ette, why did you plant so much zucchini?”

My siblings and I grew up munching, or gagging, on zucchini in every pancake or cupcake or pie, and hating it. But we never knew exactly what it was, other than a vegetable. Was it more like a cucumber or the eggplant, for which we possessed equal disdain?

Later in life, I discovered that the first description of the variety of vegetables with the name zucchini occurred in a book published in Milan in 1901. Early categories added the names of cities to the zucchini moniker to give it regional character. Botanically,...

You do not currently have access to this content.