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Zoomin' Zucchini

IT'S summer and the living ain't easy. In the tomato patch, that is. Or the zucchini patch.

Glut time is upon us. That's the time when we become conscious, each summer, why the word finite was invented. We each have a finite number of friends willing to receive gift zucchini (since half of those friends are growing it themselves, and are therefore realistic about how large a green baseball bat will fit through the kitchen door). Zucchini recipes are also finite, though various festivals from New Hampshire to Iowa are devoted to finding more variants, from trail mixes to desserts. (You haven't tasted ambrosia till you've sampled vanilla mustard cilantro zucchini mousseline.)

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The clash between garden bounty and table space is almost certainly the reason the compost pile was invented - not to mention the farm stand, county fair, and jack-o'-lantern.

Compost piles remind us of two serious reasons why all the effort of backyard gardening is worthwhile:

First, tens of millions of people each year discover why it's important to preserve and improve Earth's soil. Together with clean air and water, soil having good tilth and nutrients is essential for life on the planet.

According to a 1991 UN survey, 17 percent of vegetated land on Earth has been lost to erosion, desert spread, paving over, and other causes since 1950.

Second, those same millions of gardeners discover how wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables taste.

Now, if George Bush had only grown his own broccoli ....

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