So, what do you call them, courgettes or zucchinis? Some put them in the same category as squash, which is fairly reasonable as they are all from the same family (Cucurbitaceae). I call them courgettes, as do growers such as Zealandia, but seed companies in New Zealand list them as zucchini.
As far as summer crops, they are a go-to for many home gardeners. Being hardy and robust, they will and do cope with dry periods, plus the birds and slugs don’t seem to care for them too much, making courgettes pretty much pest free. The major issue with them is usually mildew, which causes a white milky appearance on the leaves, but doesn’t normally affect the cropping; it just looks unsightly. However, if left untreated it can infect other plants, including peas, cucumbers and pumpkins. Remedy by spraying with an organic fungal spray or by a mix of milk and baking soda.
Four plants will easily feed an average household of two adults and two children, for three to four months.
Left to their own devices, courgettes just keep on growing. The fat fingers will quickly mature into marrows, which are still edible and favoured by some for their large size and milder flavour.
Foodies love courgette flowers, adding them to gourmet dishes. It’s usually the male flowers used, as they don’t produce fruit. Pick while the petals are still malleable, before the flower fully opens. Once picked, they will last in a fridge for a couple of days at most.
Courgette seed is easy to save and dry out for use next season. Select a few good sized fruits and scrape seed onto a paper towel and allow to dry for a week or two. Don’t leave them on a sunny windowsill as the seeds will get cooked, rendering them unviable. The hot water cupboard is a good spot in which to dry seeds.
With one of the darkest green skins you will find, this glossy variety forms a loose, open bush that allows plenty of sunlight into the centre and makes for easy picking. A good one to grow on for marrows as the skin is tough and durable.
Easy to recognise, this multi-coloured, pale-green variety is streaked with shades of cream and yellow. Hailing from Italy, this variety is favoured for its flavour.
Cute as a button, with stripy green and yellow fruits and curvy habits, this one is all woman. Not a straight line to been seen!
A vigorous and reliable cropper with bright, lemon-yellow skin and pale, creamy white flesh.
‘Lunga di Toscana’ or ‘Florence Long Ribbed’
This attractive ribbed variety has a long, thin habit, making it ideal for pasta dishes and fritters. Italian heirloom variety.
Another rich dark-green variety that has a high yield. What is good about this one is it produces fruit without pollination, making it a great candidate for growing indoors where bees and pollinators are less frequent.
This is a tasty and very pretty variety with yellow skin and pea-green ends. Best eaten young, before fruit gets too big.
Probably the most commonly grown variety, this green, super-fast-growing courgette ticks all the boxes for reliability and performance. With a tough yet thin skin, the sweet flesh holds its texture and shape when gently cooked. One plant per person in the household is plenty.
Please be aware varieties available will vary by store.
10 ways to use courgettes
- In fritters – grate and mix with egg, flour, fresh garlic and herbs.
- Steamed – for a few minutes over boiling water.
- Barbecued – half, brush with oil and griddle on both sides, starting with the cut half.
- Roasted – cut into cubes and add to a medley of other vegetables. Be aware they require little cooking time, about 15-20 minutes in a hot oven.
- Boiled – cover in salted water and gently boil for a few minutes, drain and serve.
- Pickled – either in sweet or sour brine, or try roasted chutney with rhubarb or currants.
- In quiche – grate and combine with plenty of free-range eggs, some good flavoured cheese and whatever else is to hand. For a colourful combination, use green and yellow types.
- In coleslaws and salads – use a potato peeler to create thin slices, or dice finely. They do hold their shape and texture for a while, but are best added as close to serving as possible.
- In soup – use a simple leek and potato soup recipe and substitute leek with courgette. Or roast courgettes with garlic and thyme for something with a deeper, smoky flavour.
- In muffins and cakes – use as you would carrot. Grated courgette can replace eggs or oil. Have a play around, you will like the results.