The Japanese claim - and have claimed for years - that the answer to feeding the ever increasing world populace is the soybean. Others - the Chinese and the Indians notably among them - say the solution is kelp, a coarse brown seaweed.

My wife, Ann, on the other hand, is a champion of zucchini. She maintains that Bartholomew County alone has enough zucchini to feed all of South America, the Fiji Islands and half of Bavaria. Hawcreek Township by itself has so much zucchini this year that you can hardly walk through Elsbury's Greenhouse without some total stranger jumping out from behind a potted tree and forcing some into your shopping bag. I took Ann to a movie last week and the ticket salesman tried to give me my change from a $20 bill in zucchini.

I'm really not sure where all the zucchini has come from. I don't remember zucchini being around when I was a child growing up in Hope. If people grew it, they hid it somewhere - or claimed it was a giant cucumber, or cut it up and concealed it in the fruit salad.

In any case, no one talked about it or ever offered it to anyone. We all ate corn and beans and other vegetables more adequately designed for human consumption. Then about 30 years ago, zucchini started popping up here and there.

At first, no one quite knew what to do with it. My aunt Mabel sliced it and fried it and discovered it tastes like grease. My sister cut it up and baked it in a tuna casserole and found that it tastes like tuna. My uncle Jim tried making zucchini wine and said it tastes like water with a slight kick. The best idea in those days came from my daughter, who dressed up a zucchini like a doll and pushed it around her baby carriage until it rotted.

The fact is, zucchini does not taste like anything. As Ann says, the joy of zucchini is that you can put it in anything and it will take on the flavor of whatever that anything is. Her theory is that when Jesus fed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish, he used zucchini filler to stretch the meal enough to make it go around. If you have surprise dinner guests, you simply add zucchini and what was designed to feed four will now feed 12.

This summer Ann has become to zucchini what George Washington Carver was to the peanut. She has served zucchini pizza, zucchini cake, zucchini-apple pie, zucchini lasagna, zucchini soup, zucchini stroganoff, Moo Goo Gai Zucchini, Zucchini Burrito el Grande and Zucchini Bombay with Cherry Sauce. All of that was thoroughly disgusting in appearance but tasted like absolutely nothing except whatever sauce she poured over it.

And, outside of Zucchini Bombay with Cherry Sauce (which I sealed in a plastic bag and hid behind a couch cushion when she went to answer the doorbell), we managed to swallow most of it.

In addition to the endless culinary delights she has created with zucchini, she also says she can make other things from it - such as glue, shoe polish, varnish remover, deodorant soap and anti-depressant suppositories. She currently is working on a method of spinning zucchini into pantyhose.

And a wonderful part of all of this - Ann says - is that the more zucchini you use the more you seem to have. Our entire refrigerator is full. The cabinet tops are full. The freezer is full. Even my work bench in the garage has been taken over by zucchini, blissfully waiting to become a part of some future giant step for humanity.

Meanwhile out in the garden, the plants continue to produce at a rate of about six squash a second and friends and neighbors from around the globe continue to donate more.

Who says the world is doomed to end in the dust of a nuclear mushroom? From my house it appears we may all simply be squashed to death.