Cooking With Myra: Gardening and pesky deer

By Myra Starkey
May 15, 2012 at 12:15 a.m.

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

I am an animal lover. I stop in the middle of the road to move turtles, which I fear will not make it to the other side. I intentionally slow down to allow squirrels to zip across the street. I can't stand to see dogs wandering around because I am afraid they may get hit by a car.

I refrain from hunting because I don't think I could bring myself to pull the trigger. I used to think that deer were cute and innocent little creatures until just recently. Deer are now on my major bad list since I have found out what pests they are in a garden.

I know they have eye lashes. I remember joking with my friend, Robert, that I hate to see anything killed that has eyelashes. But deer fall into the category of garden predators and, therefore, I am considering all the different ways that these beasts can be eaten.

Where I come from, in south Louisiana, we don't fear any creature. We only make up new recipes. If I didn't live in the middle of town, I would have already purchased an assault rifle with a night vision scope.

For the past 25 years, I have had a summer garden. My father taught me to garden at a young age. I loved being in the dirt, and I was a natural candidate for my father to pass on his gardening skills to. I feel that I inherited his green thumb.

Every spring, I pour through seed magazines selecting just the right plants for my garden. I generally plant multiple varieties of tomatoes, bell peppers, egg plant, cucumbers and zucchini. I enjoy serving all kinds of vegetables in the summer.

The fact they sleep in the garden in my yard the night before I serve them makes me feel like I am serving more healthy vegetables than those I purchase at the grocery store.

I like to try growing all kinds of vegetables. Some bear lots of produce and others don't seem to work well in our climate. So I take note of the plants that work well and those that do not. Zucchini is really easy to grow, and with only one plant, you can have enough to share with friends and neighbors. Eggplants also seem to produce bountifully.

These seem to be the only two vegetables that deer find unappealing. Zucchini must give off either a scent or the four-legged creatures fear the sticky leaves and gnarly vines since they side step around them leaving the long green vegetables to grow beneath the large leaves.

However, my tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, peppers and Swiss chard have become an almost irresistible nocturnal salad bar for the herbivores.

Fortunately, I found a deer sprinkler, which is supposed to scare the beasts as they arrive to snack. It hooks to a water hose and looks a lot like the head of a toucan bird except for being black and white. On the front is a motion detector, which, when triggered by varmint movement, shoots a formidable jet of water in all directions.

The problem is that I keep forgetting that it is hooked up to the water hose so, morning after morning, I get sprayed as I go out to survey the garden. I am sometimes able to creep around the undiscriminating toucan head and escape the spray.

One might ask why I do not disconnect the water in order to pick vegetables? The answer is that I am generally in too much of a rush. The one time I did disconnect it, I forgot to reconnect it. The next morning, I had no Swiss chard and the tops of every tomato plant had been chomped. So, I feel that subjecting myself to a occasional spray of water is worth the risk.

So far this season, I have thriving tomatoes and cucumbers since the toucan is now guarding the crop. Since I seem to have an over abundance of zucchini, having planted six plants I have had to become creative.

I noticed one morning that I had about six ready to be picked. I placed them on my table that morning, and when I came home from work, there were 12.

Apparently during the day, my friend, Janet, had come by and found another half dozen ready for harvest. Zucchini has be picked daily because they seem to enlarge almost overnight to gargantuan logs.

One of my favorite recipes for oversized zucchini is bread. With just two cups, you can prepare a delicious loaf perfect for breakfast. If I happen to discover the vegetables when they are small, I love to prepare a salad of raw zucchini and mint.

It is refreshing and requires only a few ingredients, which include lemons, limes, mint, olive oil and zucchini. The zucchini can be shaved into ribbons with a mandolin. I also like to add arugula for texture.

I appreciate those of you who have sent me messages of encouragement for my mother, Katy, in Lake Charles. I wrote last week of the fact that her right lung space had filled with fluid, which had compromised her breathing.

She felt 100 percent better once the doctor drained the fluid off, but it was found to contain cancer cells. She probably has a recurrence of the thyroid cancer she was treated for in 2003. She will be seeing a physician at MD Anderson during the next couple of weeks, so our hope and prayers are for her full recovery.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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