Courgettes or zucchini

Courgette flower

As a child I encountered marrows but nothing as exotic as a courgette – apart from the mysterious thing called zucchini listed as an ingredient on the back of a packet of dried minestrone soup.  My love affair with courgettes started in Italy when I was served stuffed courgette flowers and tiny delicately flavoured, finger-sized zucchini in salads or with linguine. Or maybe it was just the legendary charm of Italian waiters! Alas I was destined for disappointment – courgette flowers were certainly not available in rural Herefordshire in the 1980s and the courgettes always seemed watery and tasteless. As soon as I had a vegetable garden I had to grow my own and have continued doing so with varying degrees of success.
Even this far north they can be grown outdoors as long as they are sheltered from the wind – all they need is fertile soil and some sunshine. As my soil is so free draining I plant in beds which have been well mulched with compost and occasionally give them a treat of some liquid seaweed. I usually have a couple of early plants in the polytunnel or cold frame and supplement these with up to 4 plants outside. I aim to harvest the fruit when they are about 3 inches (7-8cm) long or earlier if I am after the flowers (life definitely is not too short to stuff a courgette flower). If you take small fruit they are crunchy and full of flavour – eat raw with a dressing of olive oil and lemon or fresh herbs or cook very very lightly and add to pasta.
In a good summer productivity usually overtakes even my ability to consume their bounty; there are always a few which escape and try to grow into marrows and so I end up with the inevitable courgette glut. They do not freeze well, unless combined with tomatoes and herbs to form the basis of a pasta sauce, and my attempt at courgette chutney was not worth repeating. Fortunately Prue Leith, in the guise of Leiths Baking Bible, came to the rescue with a recipe for courgette cake. These lovely moist cakes freeze perfectly and judging by the rate of consumption you can never have too many. They’ve also proved popular with our holiday cottage guests – so with due acknowledgement to Ms Leith and her team – I’ve posted the recipe.

9 thoughts on “Courgettes or zucchini

  1. I was just talking to someone the other day about ‘exotic’ vegetables like courgettes – I think it was peppers we were discussing, which I recalled seeing for the first time as a student in the early 70s, along with aubergines (what would you call that colour if you had never come across an aubergine, I wonder….?). I certainly don’t think I had come across courgettes then either, and even mushrooms weren’t commonplace. Well done with your crop this year – I have 3 plants, one of which has done nothing, one has given me 2 small green fruits and my yellow one has produced 3 or 4 fruit (and given me the pleasure of their lovely colour) which I have picked young in case slugs got to them before I did. So no courgette cake for me I am afraid, but I have used the excuse of Younger Daughter coming for a birthday tea on Sunday to do some baking today, which will be stockpiled in the freezer. Incidentally, Chris, how do you get those other headings at the top (The Gardeners, Vegetable Plot, etc)? I haven’t worked it out yet. Oh, and what do you stuff your courgette flowers with?

    • Hello Cathy – we must be the same generation – post war austerity and Elizabeth David enlightenment. I think that apart from here in the outer Isles the weather has been too wet for courgettes. They like moisture and a good feed, but don’t like too be too wet.
      The headings along the top are Pages rather than Posts and you can get sub-pages to the Pages and link either of these to your Posts – hope this makes some sort of sense – if not e-mail me and I’ll send instructions.
      Recipe for stuffed courgette flowers will be blogged as soon as I have time – wish I had your discipline to blog regularly – I have a backlog of half-blogs, but as winter sets in their could be a croft garden blog glut!

      • Ahah – that is what a ‘page’ is! I will look into that, Chris, but not till later in the week as as we are off to the Paralympics for a couple of days so any blogging activity will be minimal. I like the personal discipline of blogging daily where possible, but after this flurry of activity since I started categorising, dipping into other gardening blogs and then getting followers and comments I now need to discipline myself to restrict the frequency of checking what’s happening! Re courgettes and other veg I have to confess that I only tinker with growing them as my real interest is decorative plants – so I certainly won’t grumble if my crops don’t do well as I have put so little effort into growing them anyway and don’t deserve any bumper crops! Incidentally, I have been collecting up various young winter vegetable plants to send to my Mum for my sister to plant for her when she goes up to Luing in few weeks – the bed they are destined for is behind her house, so less windy, but she still gets evidence of salt from sea spray, so we have no idea how they will do (and we also fear neglect!).

        • Blogging can be addictive and I tend to check my site and those of my favourite bloggers frequently, life periodically intervenes and I have do apply myself to domestic and administrative chores or I play truant and spend too much time in the garden or out walking.
          It will be interesting to see how your Mum’s plants fare – I’m experimenting with a late planting of winter brassicas. Here the biggest problem is the wind – most plants seem to tolerate the salt – so paerts of the veg garden are now beautifully wrapped in swathes of enviromesh.
          Enjoy your visit to London – I think I’d be more interested in the planting than the sport, but I’m sure you’ll have a good time.

  2. I am an ‘american’ with a kiwi dad…so am familiar with both:) we are always looking for extra recipes when the bounty it too much:) The patty pan squash have out done themselves this year in my garden, but people think they’re pretty so will take some:)
    And tomorrow (hopefully) I am posting a lemon zucchini bar recipe. (as I am bored with regular zuke bread, and have two little munchins who will guzzle anything down. Thank you for you post!

    • Hello, thank you for dropping in. I’m always interested in new recipes too, so I’ll be interested to see your lemon zucchini bar. There is also a savory version of the courgette cake which uses cheese and either herbs or spices such as mustard or cayenne.
      My patty pen squash were prolific but never grew bigger than button size and were absolutely tasteless, but they were very pretty!

  3. The squash blossom stuffed with cheese and fried is also a staple of our local southwestern cuisine. I have not tried growing these at home but your post has prompted me to try next spring. My sister-in-law uses her extra zucchini in lasagna to replace the pasta.

    • Hi Shirley it’s worth having just one plant for the flowers, they’re very attractive. The fruit are very adaptable, if they get a little large they are great stuffed or grated and made into rosti or fritters (with Feta cheese and chilli).

  4. I totally understand zucchini “glut”. We do not grow them ourselves but are often (very often) offered zucchini from relatives, neighbours, etc. Everyone seems to have a glut at this time of year!
    On Pinterest, I came upon a very interesting and tasty way to prepare zucchini as a side dish.
    Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and trim a little off the bottom so it sits straight in a baking dish. Scoop out the centre and seeds with a spoon. Discard. Brush the surface with a mixture of crushed garlic, olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Arrange halved grape tomatoes into the grooves, sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs and bake in a 350F oven for 40 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove and place diced Fontina cheese or mozzarella in between the tomatoes, place them back in but now broil until golden and bubbling. Remove and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan.
    I have made these and they are very tasty! Just another idea………

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.