Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How Much Does a Garden Grow: Zucchini

Can you believe that I didn't take a picture of zucchini this year?  I was so busy reveling in their productivity, I didn't snap a picture, so here is one from last year.  Same variety, so same difference, I suppose.

Zucchini was the best crop of the year for me.  My zucchini were prolific and productive, giving me fruit after fruit until they finally gave up last week.  No cucumber beetles, no squash bugs (knock wood), and the little bit of powdery mildew that developed didn't slow them down.  The zucchini were easy to get young and tender, and I froze a good bit in addition to having them as a component of dinner more nights than not for about two months.

I grew 3 plants, using half a pack of seeds that cost $3.25, so $1.63 in seed costs.  From that, I harvested 44 zucchini, and only one was of the large, shred-it-now, baseball bat size.  The total haul was 22 pounds, 2 oz. 

Price?  In the middle of the season, zucchini was everywhere.  But if I wanted organic zucchini, I would have had to go to Trader Joe's (which usually has really good prices for organics) and paid $2.99 a pound.  The organic zucchini were packaged in little foam trays and covered with plastic wrap, which just goes to show that if you make one responsible decision, something else slips.

I know, I could have purchased zucchini for less.  But the reality is, I wanted organic zucchini so I feel comfortable eating the skins, and I would have paid the $2.99 if I didn't have my plants.  So, that's my price.

Total value of my harvest:  $66.14.  Subtract my seed costs, and I have a profit of $64.51.  Yeah, zucchini!

But wait, we're not done here.  This is where a strict tally of food weight and cost doesn't tell the whole story.  Yes, I brought in a lot of zucchini.  But the real value of zucchini is in what it displaces from the regular budget.  A zucchini pie or batch of zucchini orzo replaces an $18 emergency run to Noodles & Co., a $6 pound of grass-fed beef that Mr. FC&G would cook up for dinner, or any number of other, more expensive dinner options.  Zucchini serves as "meat" in some dishes and stretches others to create more servings.  I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that, for each of the the eight or nine weeks I was harvesting zucchini, they knocked at least $10-15 off the food bill by becoming a component of two or three meals. I would say I have at least 6-7 more meals down in the freezer in the form of frozen zucchini, each of which might displace $5 worth of more expensive food.  Tally that, and our real zucchini savings (not reflected below) might come in at $140 off the year's food bill.

That is the real lesson of gardening for sustainability; it is often more about what you don't buy than the value of what you produce.

2011 Tally to Date: 57.43 lbs of crops; $77.85 saved
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  1. Like the guerrilla gardener says, "Growing your own food is like printing your own money." Nice work!