Last year I was introduced to “The Immortal Molded Gourds of Mr. Zhang Cairi” and was amazed. This man has single-handedly revived a centuries old art form that was outlawed for decades. My clumsy words do his artwork injustice. Seriously, check him out! He inspired me to think I could mold any relative of the gourd into any shape I wanted. I was already trying my hand at watermelons, but they would be so expensive that only a few people would buy them after coming to gawk. What I needed was a plant that was a smaller, cheaper alternative to watermelons that could be an impulse buy. After a bit of search I decided on Zucchini. They grow fast, take little maintenance, and what I learned with them could be applied to my more labor intensive watermelon efforts. For molds I decided on used plastic soda and water bottles from work. (now THAT’S recycling!) Zucchini in a bottle!
My first problem was finding a Zucchini small enough to stuff in the bottle. Either they were too small, with the flower still firmly attached, or they were far too big to fit down a 20 oz. neck. I tried squeezing in a zucchini that was a just little too large, but I damaged the tender skin, and it stopped growing. I had to check the Zucchini plants every day, or they would quickly get too large. For airflow, I poked holes in the bottle sides and bottoms with a thumbtack. Eventually, this became tiresome, so I tried using a few bottles without air holes. After baking in the sun for a week, all that was left of those doomed zukes was a smelly, liquid mush. So, the zucchini need airholes. When it rained, I had to check the plants morning and night to catch my window of opportunity. So I had several zucchini growing in bottles. All good. How long should I let them grow in the bottles? AND THE ANSWER IS . . . until the zucchini neck starts expanding wider than the bottleneck. If there is a little unfilled air space left near the bottom or the top of the bottle, that’s ok. Only the rare zucchini will completely fill the bottle. Pull them from the stalk to harvest, but fight the temptation to cut them flush with the bottle opening. They’ll keep longer if they stay intact; cut they’ll last at least week in the fridge. One thing that shocked me was how hard it was to peel the bottles off the zucchini. The next time I grow them, I plan to pre-cut the bottles to make removal easier. So my plan was to call these novelties ‘Cchini in a Bottle and hope that people would pay $2-$5 for each bottle. One last note, Zucchini will never grow to fill a 2-liter bottle. They’ll get as long as a club, but never thicken enough. My Amish neighbors down the road discovered that.