There are a lot of trees around Lily Hoffman’s Shelter Island home, but that doesn’t really explain why squirrels invade her kitchen. What we do know is this, when Lily makes a certain kind of zucchini bread, the squirrels will come.
The heavenly scent of baking cinnamon and nuts may be part of the attraction. Lily first noticed the effects of this particular recipe on the local squirrels when she saw a bushy-tailed friend peering into the kitchen through the screen door while she cooked. The next time she whipped it up, a squirrel appeared at her screen door again. He seemed hungry, and rattled the screen. The next time she made it, while it cooled, she stepped out of the kitchen, and returned to find the squirrel inside the house, apparently taking advantage of a tear in the screen to personally inspect the loaf.
She urged me to try making the zucchini loaf (it is delicious) but first make sure the doors are closed.
Is there a rational explanation for the interest of squirrels in this particular baked good? According to biologists, squirrels crave salt during their mating season, which in the Northeast is fall, and there is a good amount of salt in this recipe. Of course, squirrels also gather nuts, but generally the nuts are freestanding, not baked into a sweet. To be on the safe side, I used pecans instead of walnuts, and although Lily’s recipe, which comes from her friend Kay, calls for cinnamon, I made it with cinnamon and ground cardamom hoping to throw the squirrels off the scent.
A toasted slice of zucchini bread makes a great breakfast whether you are a squirrel or not.
Zucchini Nut Loaf
Adapted from a recipe by Kay Kohl
2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini
2 cups of sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1. Mix zucchini, sugar, eggs and oil. Add dry ingredients.
2. Pour into two greased loaf pans.
3. Bake at 325 degrees for an hour.
4. Close the door and check the screens.
5. Cool completely.
6. Remove from pans and wrap tightly in wax paper and foil.
7. Store in refrigerator until served.