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Sharon Nesbit is a former news reporter for The Outlook. She writes her column in her retirement.

Sharon Nesbit wrote this column in 2004.

NESBITThe biodegradable paperweights are here.

I just secured a flyaway note on my desk with an eight-inch Asian eggplant.

Mara was the first this year to receive the annual monster zucchini. "The size of a small baby," she said when the green mass was deposited on her phone book.

"No, actually," said an experienced mom, "it's the size of a large baby."

What is really scary about these big zucchinis is that the gestation period between a respectable squash and one bigger than a Volkswagen fender is about four days.

Being a practical person, Mara asked me what she should do with her gift squash.

I explained that my usual plan is to graciously accept all steroidal specimens, cradle them gently in my arms, load them in the back seat, drive about five blocks and pitch them into the ditch.

Mara, instead, added orange zest and five bucks worth of nuts to make quite a nice zucchini bread. She sneaked the surplus into a meat loaf.

"You did?" said her astonished spousal unit, once again illustrating the concept that what you don't know doesn't hurt you, and that zucchini shouldn't be talked about in polite society.

I've never quite understood why people grow zucchinis when it's all you can do this time of year to avoid one. We hide behind bushes to escape local gardeners ridding themselves of the harvest. They should plant more tomatoes.

This spring Hubs and I planted our tomato plants right across the fence from our neighbors' crop. We joked about who would have the first ripe tomato and, sure enough, in July we looked over the fence and saw that our neighbor had beautiful red tomatoes hanging from their vines. On closer inspection, they had those little oval plastic labels on the skin and you could just make out the green ribbon securing them to the plants.

Since then, our tomatoes have grown like kudzu and so have theirs. "How are you," I said to our neighbor the other day. And he snapped, "Don't change the subject. Will you take some tomatoes?"

It used to be that we pitiful journalists gratefully accepted all surplus foods — eggs, chickens, tomatoes and rhubarb, even zucchini. In the old days, journalists were hard-bitten characters barely able to keep English ivy alive. The gift of a single tomato that hadn't spent three weeks in a truck and two weeks shriveling in the fridge was a fine thing indeed.

But somewhere in the last decade, newspaper folk quit smoking and drinking and turned to domestic skills. Some of us can cook. Some of us can even grow small gardens. It doesn't take a very big garden to have too much of something, and we have to hunt up friends who like lemon cucumbers.

The irony is that we work on our gardens all spring and early summer and the minute they start to produce, we go on vacation. We get frantic calls from absent neighbors in faraway places. Please pick our corn. Take the green beans, please.

This year, no kidding, I packed to take on vacation — along with sunscreen and swimsuit — a bag of cucumbers and two kinds of herbs. What have we come to?

This year has been such a great growing season that some gardeners impose minimum standards.

Florence called asking if I wanted fresh sweet corn. Calculating the menus for the week and multiplying by the number of dinners eaten at home, I said, "Sure, I'd love to have four ears."

"No way," she said. "You have to take six."

Florence drives a hard bargain.

Sharon Nesbit is a former news reporter for The Outlook. She writes her column in her retirement. You can reach Sharon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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