There were no zucchinis on "The Road to Ellerslie" but too many at home.

The chief programming boffins at TVNZ are clearly not gardeners. No matter that every leisure survey in this country puts gardening at the top or close to the top of favoured activities, TVNZ has done its utmost to ignore it in recent times. Since the demise of Maggie’s Garden Show several years ago, there has been nothing memorable in the way of gardening programmes.

But wait. Suddenly we have a new gardening programme. Alas it has been banished to the wasteland time of 9.30am on Saturday morning. It is not even morning coffee time. And with nary a trailer to be seen promoting it, my guess it is has entirely bypassed most gardeners. Ah ha. Proof positive to the programmers that there is no demand for gardening programmes on the main channels.

It is called “The Road to Ellerslie” which may be a little off-putting for non Christchurch or southern viewers but is probably indicative of who put up some of the money to fund its making. For readers not in the know, Auckland’s well known Ellerslie Flower Show (which hadn’t actually been staged at Ellerslie for many years, having moved to the Bot Gardens) was sold to the highest bidder, which happened to be Christchurch.
Auckland of course sprang into action with its new flower and garden show last spring and Christchurch moved its dates to autumn. Hence this programme.

But the episode we caught last week was not just about the Christchurch version of the Ellerslie Flower Show. It is magazine format for those of us whose concentration spans can’t cope with more than a six minute sequence but overall we gave it a creditable pass mark. There was a profile of an attractive garden on Banks Peninsula. It was a shame about the dreadful camera work which panned around so quickly that it was impossible to focus on the bigger views that were shown, but other than that, it showed a garden and gardener of some merit. We then went to the garden of a Christchurch landscaper who is preparing an exhibit for the flower show. Her own garden was pretty rough and not remarkable but the coverage of her planned exhibit was interesting. We then had a brief segment by another local landscaper giving us ideas and principles for our own gardens. Nothing memorable but a good format idea. Then to broaden the appeal, we had Aucklanders Lynda Hallinan on building a worm farm and Tony Morel on watering tips. Lynda goes from strength to strength in the New Zealand garden scene. She has a lot of experience now and she walks the talk, being genuinely interested in plants and hands-on gardening as well as having an engaging personality. Tony’s section was a little too brief and short on detail, but he too has amassed a lot of experience in recent years and his enthusiasm is infectious.

We will be having an early coffee to catch another programme tomorrow morning. It is so nice to see something home grown in gardening TV.
A friend reported that he had no choice but to make the sad decision to euthanase three zucchini plants.
He had simply run out of ideas to use the rampant produce, having done every vegetable alternative in his repertoire along with muffins, pies and even chocolate cake with grated zucchini (pleasantly moist and good keeping). He had to take drastic steps to slow the harvest, having run out of room in the vegetable crisper.

Turn your back and a zucchini can turn into a marrow overnight and marrows are a challenge to turn into an appetising meal. In days gone by, I have tried to use them by cooking stuffed marrow but the bottom line is the stuffing tends to taste better without the marrow casing. I am not so desperate these days that I feel obliged to use up every marrow. But faced by a small mountain of overgrown zucchini bordering on marrows here too, I dug out the juicer. We only found the juicer recently, stored by one of our overseas daughters in her wardrobe at home and it is quite a remarkable piece of equipment. She says she bought it from Cash Converters for $25 (or maybe it was $40) so I am guessing that juicers are somewhat like bread makers – the thought appeals but the reality ends up being that yet another appliance sits unused in the cupboard. But it did a splendid job on the zucchini and a veritable torrent of fresh, pale green liquid emerged. If we were into chilled soups, I could see an instant use for fresh zucchini juice. But alas, although my Mark is a relatively adventurous eater, he draws the line at chilled soup. So what was I to do with around four litres of zucchini juice? I froze two litres in the hope that it may last until the hot soup season returns. The remainder I mixed with fresh squeezed orange juice to see if that would make it more palatable. It did, although Mark was a little underwhelmed by the orange and zucchini combo with his breakfast. I know he would prefer the OJ without the vegetable addition but variety is good for us, I am sure and I rate it as refreshing.

While on a mission to deal with the avalanche of zucchini, I also tried stuffing the flowers. I have been served these in an expensive restaurant before and they were divine. The usual filling is a simple mix of ricotta cheese (firmer than its cottage cheese cousin), parmesan and fresh herbs. The whole is then dipped in a light batter and deep fried quickly. I never deep fry anything and sadly shallow frying does not really work. While the result was very tasty, it certainly lacked the visual oomph as my flower bundles collapsed. I shall try the oven baked version next time. It is worth perfecting the technique if you are growing your own but keep to the larger female flowers (you can even pick them just as the tiny zucchini are forming at the base) because the male flowers (which do not set fruit) are a little too small.

If you are wondering about the difference between courgettes and zucchini, I read somewhere recently that the former are so-called by the French while the latter is the Italian term. I am guessing that the English were a little slow to catch on that they are best eaten at the juvenile stage so maybe they can lay claim to the term marrow.