If I was going to get all snooty and "Twitmarsh", then technically courgettes are a fruit. However, picture the look of disgust on my children's faces were I ever to serve them sliced courgettes with strawberries and orange segments! We've got four hungry mouths in our family, and find that two or three courgette plants gives us an ample amount of the firm juicy fruits in the summer. Don't be tempted to plant more - it will literally be raining courgettes and you can soon go off a good thing.
Other than their need for warmth, they are pretty easy to grow and if you're new to growing then you should be impressed by how quick the plant grows. Start the seeds off in rich, damp compost - about a centimetre under the surface placed on their edge. This can be done indoors from late march onwards. If you place them flat, the seeds can be prone to rotting in the damp compost. After about a week you should see them sprouting and very quickly after that you'll get two quite large seed leaves followed by some "true" leaves. Keep the compost damp and in the warmth, then when all chance of night frost has passed (normally about late May) they can be planted outside.
Plant the young plants about a metre apart - they'll soon fill out so don't worry about the empty space between plants. All through the growing season, they will need plenty of water and good rich compost - if your soil is poor then use a liquid feed.
Cut the fruits off at their stems when they are about 5 or 6 inches long; these will keep for a few days in the fridge. Alternatively you can leave them on as marrows - I always leave the very last fruit on the plant to grow into a marrow. Marrows store better than their smaller relatives - just keep them dry.
Common varieties include "all green bush" - a classic sausage shaped fruit with a rich dark green speckled skin colour and "golden dawn" - which produces yellow skinned fruits. You can also get courgette plants which have round shaped fruits.
The plants can be trained up thick sturdy poles or left to ramble along the ground.
CARING FOR COURGETTES
Courgettes can be prone to being overwatered as they have a fast growth rate, so the temptation is to half drown them. Too much water can cause the plant to rot where the stem meets the soil. A good way to water courgettes is to give them a good soak, then cover the soil with a mulch (grass cuttings work well) to keep the moisture in the soil. I water mine about once a week in dry weather, and give them a liquid feed once a fortnight.
If the plants don't get enough water, then the roots can suffer which weakens the plant and leaves them susceptible to powdery mildew. This disease is easy to spot as your leaves will have a coating of a grey powder which smells a bit and eventually the leaves themselves will turn black and die, also killing the plant. Prevention is better than cure, so avoid powdery mildew by making sure your plants have enough to drink - without drowning them!
If they are in a very windy position, bees will be reluctant to pollinate the flowers and you may have to do it by hand. This is pretty easy to do as the flowers are massive and easy to tell the difference between a male and female flower. The pollen from the male needs to be added to the female - male flowers grow at the end of a thin straight stem and female flowers have a little bulge on the stem behind the base of the flower (this bulge will turn into a growing fruit after the flower has died off). Take the leaves off a male flower and leave the middle part, then rub this middle bit onto the middle bit of a female flower. Congratulations, you've just made love with a flower! Pollination ensures that plenty of fruits will grow, so keep an eye out for bees in your garden.
USING COURGETTES - FOR EATING
There are plenty of Mediterranean style dishes that use courgettes, our favourite one being frittata. There are a million different ways of making frittatas so I'll leave you with your own cook books and the bbc food web pages to discover your own. I recommend that you look out for some Greek recipes for courgettes - they have some very tasty fillings for baked stuffed courgettes and also for stuffing the flowers with. Be adventurous and imaginative when you cook with your courgettes - in our first year of growing them I was put off ratatouille for life!
The large yellow flowers can be picked off, dipped in pancake batter and fried. These are a lot nicer than they sound and make a really good snack or starter.
They are low in calories (I'm 99% sure that they are worth zero weight watchers points - please comment if you know different!) and are a good source of potassium and vitamin A.
If this year is the first time you've tried growing your own fruit and veg in the garden, then grow a courgette plant as their high yields of fruit will be very rewarding and make all the gardening inflicted dirty hands and sore backs worthwhile.
Courgettes are fairly simple to grow, but give a beautiful crop that can be used in many a dish. A packet of seeds cost a couple of pounds, I will normally get one plant per two seeds. In late March/early April fill a 9cm pot with soil and plant two seeds about 16mm down. Keep this in a propagator, or on a window sill, making sure you water reguarly. The plant should trail, so don't feel any need to stake it. When its about 10cm tall/long pop them in a cold frame for a week or two to hardened off. Then plant them in the ground 50-60 cm apart (or in 60cm pot). To help with pollination take a soft bristle paint brush and brush the pollen between the flowers and plants. As soon as fruits start to develop (about June/July) gently life the tendrils of the plant and put straw between the ground and the plant. Harvest by gripping the fruit and twisting it away at the base.
Experience with Courgettes and Marrows
I was never found of the usual vegetables when I was a child such as carrots or parsnips as a child and was rather turned off most vegetables if they weren't green (I know what a weird child who loves all of her green vegetables). So my parents would cook courgettes fried up with garlic and a bit of lemon juice and still do. It was only recently that we discovered that they were the easiest thing on the planet to grow in our climate.
What we needed to grow them:
Lots of water
A grow bag, large pot or well composted soil bed
Basically what we did was plant the seeds in small composted pots and then when they were strong and large enough we transplanted them outside in large pots, and what used to be out flower bed though a grow bag would do fine also. Settling them in with lots of water, a few weeks to months later the plants started producing flowers followed by vegetable like nobody's business, just remember to keep watering them and to break or twist off the courgettes or marrows instead of cutting this encourages the plant to keep on producing.
Some things we have learned not to do
If you do live in a damp environment like we do, do not let the vegetable directly touch the soil as it causes them to rot. Instead put hay or straw under them, otherwise the slugs and snails get them. I would also advise you to eat them when they are small and tender. If they get too big then they develop a large hole down the centre so you end up with around the same amount of vegetable but not as sweet or tender and they tend to develop a prickly skin which isn't too nice.
In Comparison To Store Bought Equivalent
There isn't any comparison, the home grown version tastes so much better in texture, flavour and you know no junks gone into them too. We have also saved a great deal of money and usually have a steady supply for 3-6 months, plus it just feels good to eat something you have hand grown yourself.
Courgettes are so versatile too, you can make soup, pasta sauce or simply fry them up or stuff them, and there is no disadvantage to growing them unless you dislike the taste of them of course.
Easy to grow, they don't take up a lot of space, generally produce a lot of vegetables providing you look after them and you can cook them so many different ways what's not to like.
I have reviewed several herbs and vegetables that we grow in our relatively small garden every year, but one that I haven't reviewed as yet is the courgette, which my husband plants every year and we start to enjoy around july/august time.
Courgettes are part of the same family as the marrow, and if left to grow unwatched, you could very soon end up with courgettes that become like huge marrows, losing a lot of the taste that courgettes offer, when picked at a more normal size. There are currently only two of us in our household and one plant is perfectly adequate, and in fact, most years, we have an overwhelming amount from just the one plant. So, one plant should still be enough even for a smallish family. The thing that my husband likes about this particular plant, is that for a great harvest, the plant itself doesn't take up a lot of room, and therefore, even if you have a small garden this is an ideal plant to get you started if you are thinking about growing your own vegetables.
A courgette plant is sown from seed, and is ideally sown in the Spring time, as you need to be careful to avoid any lingering frosts, and therefore it shouldn't be planted out in the ground until May or June when you are confident that the winter frosts have completely passed. One thing to remember however when you are planting, is that the courgette plant loves rich organic matter, and so it is best that when you are planting, to dig a hole and fill with manure for example, and then put earth on top before planting your courgette, so its roots will get to enjoy the richness of the organic matter.
Like some other plants, the courgette plant leaves don't like direct water, and so my husband usually has a shallow moat around the plant and he applies the water there so as to avoid the leaves. He also feeds the plant once a week or so with tomato feed.
There are several different varieties of the courgette plant, ranging from the yellow gold rush courgette to pale green clarion, to the darker green parthenon that you can pick up in the supermarkets.
One thing that I didn't ever realise before was that courgette plants produce both male and female flowers, however, it is only the female flower that produces the courgette. It isn't necessary to wait to the flower has fallen off however before picking the courgette, but you should be careful when cutting the courgette off, that you don't damage any other parts of the plant.
My husband has never encountered any problems when it comes to growing courgettes, but there are some problems associated with this vegetable such as mildew, but this usually appears as you enter the cooler weather than Autumn brings.
The thing you will no doubt encounter with courgettes however is the vast amount of them that one single plant can produce, leading you to think, what am i going to do with all those courgettes (in fact there is even a book written with this exact title to help). I have found the best way to use a good lot of courgettes up in one go, is to make courgette soup, and freeze it for the winter. I would previously have never liked the thought of courgette soup, but made with the right ingredients and pureed, it really is delicious. I also cut up courgettes small and fry them in butter and use them as a side vegetable, as well as putting them into pasta dishes and casseroles. Last summer I even found a cake recipe which used grated courgette and was delicious! So there are plenty of things you can do with your courgette glut, if you do some research.
All in all, this is a great and easy vegetable to grow, that again, requires little work, but also little space, and in return you get a great crop, meaning you won't need to buy a single courgette for months, or if you are like me, I never buy them because I can then look forward to those than come in our garden at this time of year.
I have been dabbling in growing my own vegetables in the garden for the past few years. This has been partly inspired by us having less money because I am now a stay at home parent, but it has also been a family activity for all of us.
We converted a large rockery into a raised bed, and we have put wooden boards around the 3 growing areas to separate them out a little, but also to have some protection from pests. There is also a knee height wire fence. This is because we have cats ourselves, as do a number of neighbours and we didn't fancy them sharing our beds with the veggies.
The first year when we knew least about what we were doing was our best year for some of the crops. That year, we had courgettes for dinner every night for over a month, and we have not recreated that in the following two years so I thought I would write a review about what we found.
I grow all my own veg from seed. Our soil has been quite clay based in the past, but we have dug it over and tried to make it more suitable for our plants.
Courgette seeds are best planted inside round about the middle to end of March. We have a large sunny south facing window sill, and I started off most of my seeds together then. In previous years I have been impatient and started earlier, but the plants are not daft, and you can't fool them into growing quicker because you want them too.
A courgette seed is quite large, an elongated oval shape, and a pale yellowy green colour. I always plant them vertically in the compost, usually in a small pot. I save up any old pot from the kitchen for this purpose. Yoghurt pots are great.
I have an indoor propogator which is basically a seed tray with a plastic lid. The lid has little slots you can open or close to prevent condensation collecting as this can make your compost and plant go mouldy.
I always use a mulit-purpose compost from B and Q as it was a best buy in Which a few years ago. It comes in a purple bag, and I have a very good success rate at growing from seed with this compost. Most seeds germinate quite quickly within a week or two with a bit of sunlight and water.
Courgette seedlings look quite unique to me. They firstly develop 2 seed leafs similarly to other plants such as tomatoes, and the hard outer part of the shell is cast off. Very rapidly then you see new leaf formation which to me looks like a little heart, and the plant quickly gains in height. I try to keep my seedlings indoors for a good few weeks until towards the end of April before I think about putting them in the soil.
A lot of gardeners are sensible and do something called hardening off with their tender plants. This means you place the pot outdoors in the day, so it gets used to it, but take it back in at night before it gets cold in case there is a late frost. I am a bit lazy and tend to plant straight into the ground and risk it. If I think there might be frost, I sometimes use an old pop bottle or milk bottle and cut it down before turning it upside down over the plant. This acts like a mini greenhouse.
Courgettes are quite pretty plants. You get beautiful yellow trumpet shaped flowers appear, which open in response to the sun, and then close when it gets dark. Courgettes are definitely what I would describe as sun lovers, and because you place them in a sunny spot, they are also thirsty plants that require lots of water when they are growing fruits. We also tend to give them a weekly feed when the fruit appears as this gives the plant a bit of added help.
Other than extra fertiliser, we do not put pesticide treatments on anything we grow. The courgette is quite hardy against pests because the leaves and stem are quite prickly once it is established. If you touch it without a glove it does prickly your skin and irritate it.
Courgettes can be a little tricky some years compared to others. Last year we hardly got any fruit because the weather was so wet and miserable, and also this year is turning out in a similar way. I have also noticed this year that we don't appear to have many female flowers on the plants. Courgettes have both male and female flowers appear on the plant. The male flowers are closer to the stem, whereas the female flower grows on the end of the emerging courgette, and without the female flowers, you don't end up with a good crop.
Overall, Courgettes are a lot of fun to grow. The growth is rapid and visible on a daily basis, so it is good for getting the kids interested as it is much quicker than say a tomato. The fruit you get off them is so tasty. A lot tastier than those bought in the shop. If you take the fruit off at a reasonably length rather than letting them grow longer and fatter, you are able to extend the growing season a little longer.
A couple of pounds can buy a lot of seeds, whereas you might get 4 or 5 courgettes from the supermarket for a similar price.
I am hoping this year we are just a little behind with the crop thanks to the wet weather, and a period of sunshine will be just what is required to have us eating them for the rest of the summer.
Marrows and courgettes are from the same family as pumpkins and squashes. Courgettes are young marrows. They need to be picked quickly once they reach the size of a cucumber, if left for a few more days they will turn into marrows.
Marrows are the size of a large watermelon and have a harder skin than courgettes and need to be peeled. Inside there is white flesh and lots of large seeds that need to be scooped out. With courgettes you can eat the skin and the seeds are so microscopic you can eat them too. Courgettes are juicier than marrows. The flowers that turn into courgettes can be fried and eaten to.
There is not a massive amount of taste to marrows but they can be stuffed with savoury mince and baked. I like to make marrow and cheese (similar to cauliflower cheese) served with green veg and boiled potatoes. They are also good coated in vegemite and roasted this gives it extra flavour. Marrow can also be used to make wine, whisky and rum as the water content is high.
Courgettes are sweeter and nice and juicy. They are one of my favourite vegetables. They can be roasted, boiled, steamed added to soups and stews and used in the making of ratatouille.
Marrows and courgettes do not have much goodness in them as they are 95% water. They contain dietary fibre and some amounts of vitamin C. They are very low in calories so are good if your on a diet. The seeds of a marrow can be roasted or fried and tossed into salads, these contain vitamin B and minerals. Thay have 45% unsaturated fat and 25% protein.
You can also give them to pet rodents such as hamsters as they love them.
The botanical name for marrows and courgettes is CURCUBITA PEPO. They have been grown in Mexico since 5000BC and in Peru since 3000BC. The North American Indians also used them in cooking and rug making.
The Spanish brought them to Europe in the 16th century. The Italians were the first to use immature marrows known as courgettes. They were excepted as a British vegetable in the 1950's.
Marrows and courgettes are easy to grow. Sow the seeds in April and leave them to come up. when the fruits start to show water them frequently from the roots otherwise they will rot. They can be harvested between August and November depending if you wan't courgettes or marrows.
You can buy courgettes easily from supermarkets, markets and fruit and veg shops the price depends on weight and if they are in season or not.
Marrows are slightly harder to find in supermarkets but can be found in fruit and veg shops and at markets when they are in season (Oct-Nov). They have a set price is for the whole vegetable.
Courgettes and marrows belong to the family of squashes, the same as pumpkins and cucumbers. Courgettes are essentially undeveloped marrows, and if left on the plants, would eventually grow to the size of marrows. Some varieties are more suited to growing on, and others are better picked small. Preparation and care is virtually the same for all varieties. Incidentally, the vegetables that are picked from the plants are called fruits. That is what I shall refer to them as in this op, even though they are vegetables. Confused? Tomatoes are fruits but called vegetables. Such is life! The Latin name that covers all members of the marrow family is Cucurbita Pepo. The plants are essentially a warm season crop, doing best with temperatures of between 64 – 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Frost can seriously delay fruit production, so it is best not to plant out in the open until mid June, when all risk of ground frost has passed. All courgettes and marrows grow best in a bed of well-rotted compost. Indeed, they will even grow on top of a pile of rotting kitchen waste. They need a well-drained area of soil, with frequent watering so that the soil is kept moist but not saturated. We find a couple of buckets of water per plant on a warm, dry summer’s day is the minimum requirement. Any less, and the flowers are apt to dry and fall off prematurely. PREPARATION The ground in which you plan to grow the plants needs to be well prepared before planting. Dig in as much rotting compost as possible, and cover with a thin layer of topsoil. Stable waste is a good additive to use (see, I’m using polite language here!), so if you are lucky enough to live near a stable, check out if they will let you have a sack or two of the stuff. Once it is in the open air, it doesn’t smell. Honestly! Even before planting, make sure the area is watered regularly, as this will encourage root growth when the plants are in. Each plant
will need about a square metre, so bear this in mind when deciding how many plants to raise. Courgette and marrow seeds are notoriously difficult to germinate in soil. I have found the following way works for me, in less than a week! Put three or four layers of thick kitchen towel into the bottom of an ice cream tub (eat the ice cream first!). Dampen the towel without making it too wet, and place the seeds onto the damp towel, about a centimetre apart. Put the lid on the tub, and leave in a darkened, warm place. The airing cupboard can get a bit too warm, so try a dark cupboard, or even under the settee! After about five days, check the seeds. Some will have put out a tiny shoot at one end. Others will have swollen, but still have no shoot. Leave the latter in the tub for a few more days, and remove those with a shoot. Plant each seed in a flowerpot containing good potting compost. Make sure the seed is at least 2 inches from the surface. Leave in a warm place, and keep moist. Depending on the time of year (we usually do this in mid May), a sunny, protected corner of the garden will be adequate, but do watch for any forecast of frost, and bring the plants indoors if there is any risk. Approximately 2 weeks later, the first leaves will be pushing through the soil. Ensure that the plants are kept well moistened at this stage, and encourage growth by placing in the sun as much as possible. When the young plants are about 6 inches, or three leaves high, and all risk of frost has gone, they are ready to plant out in their prepared place. ONCE IN THE GROUND Remove the whole contents of the pot, including the compost, and place in a hole dug in the prepared bed. This prevents any root disturbance. Firm in gently, and water well. There should be approximately a metre between plants, as many varieties grow by trailing across the ground. Water daily, and give a weekly dilute feed of tomato food mixed with water. T
his is low in nitrogen, which is what courgettes and marrows prefer. As the plants grow, flowers will begin to form. Courgettes and marrows grow two types of flower: male and female. The fruits form only on the female flowers, but will need the male flowers for fertilisation. The first year we grew them I hadn’t a clue which was which, but it is, in fact, easy to tell the difference. The female flowers have a bulge directly behind the flower, which is the embryo fruit, whilst the male flower grows on a straight stem. If bees and other pollinating insects seem to be in short supply, you can aid pollination by gently brushing the pollen from a male flower into the centre of a female one. The fruits mature quite rapidly, and some plants will produce more than others. Courgettes should be picked when they are about six inches long to be at their best. The big hotels prefer them picked with the flower still attached, but we, being common, remove the flower! Marrows are best picked when about 12 – 15 inches, and the skin is still soft to the touch. If left much longer, the skins toughen up, which makes them harder to work with, and also means that the flesh inside is over-ripe. You will need to check daily for ripe courgettes, as their rate of growth is rapid. They can be stored in a fridge for several days. Marrows and courgettes will continue to fruit almost up to the first autumn frosts, so long as fruits are removed when ripe. If the fruits are left on, they begin to rot, and that discourages new flowering. At the end of the season, remove the plant from the ground, and either burn, or chop up onto the compost heap. VARIETIES Courgettes Zucchini. This is the classic, dark green variety usually found in shops. The leaves of this plant are silver-spotted, and the whole plant is very attractive. Gold Rush. The fruits of this variety are a deep yellow colour, and can be grow
n in a tub, as the plants do not get as large as the green sort. Elite. Similar to the Zucchini, but the fruits are not quite as dark. Early Gem. As the name suggests, this one tends to fruit quite early, but harvesting will not go on for as long as other varieties. Marrows. All Green Bush. These are your standard, green striped marrows as found in supermarkets. Very easy to grow. Custard White. These are an unusual, being of a flattish shape, with fluted edges, and usually a creamy, white colour. Butterstick. The fruits of this plant have a yellowish colour, but are used in the same way as an ordinary marrow. There are other varieties, but as I have used these sorts, I will stick with them. HOW TO USE MARROWS AND COURGETTES Courgettes. These can be used simply as an additional vegetable in a variety of ways. They can be simply sliced and steamed until tender. They can be sliced and lightly fried, preferably in butter, although olive oil will do almost as well. I have sliced them longways, and roasted in the oven for about 30 minutes. They can be used in conjunction with tomatoes, onion and sweetcorn to make a ratatouille, which can then be frozen for future use (see my op on tomatoes for recipe). They can even be diced into quite small pieces, and mixed with mayonnaise to make a crunchy salad. Courgettes Provencales Cook a small chopped onion, a crushed clove of garlic and a peeled sliced tomato in a little butter. Add one pound of sliced courgettes, salt and pepper to taste, cover, and simmer for around 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Serve as a main course, with pasta or rice, or as an accompanying vegetable. Marrows Cut lengthways and scoop out the middle. Stuff with cooked minced meat and onion. Tie the 2 halves together, and cover with foil. Bake in a medium oven (Gas mark 5) for about an hour. Remove, slice and serve
with mash and whatever other veg you like. I HAVE made marrow and ginger jam…..I can’t say it was one of my favourites, but my daughter’s friend’s mum loved it, and took the whole lot from me (thank goodness!) You can also make a fairly potent alcoholic liqueur. Cut one end from a large marrow, scoop out all the seeds from the inside, and fill with a mixture of brandy or rum, and sugar. Suspend in some way over a container,(we dangle it on string from a wooden beam in the conservatory!) and pierce the uncut end with a small hole. Leave the resulting mixture to drip out slowly. Refill the hollow marrow from time to time. When you have enough liquid to fill a bottle, strain into said bottle, and replace lid. Leave to stand for a minimum of one month before drinking. ME AND MY MARROWS We tend to grow mainly courgettes on the allotment. I have had a dozen or more plants, but really 6 is enough, even on an allotment! 2 should be more than enough in a garden. This year I aim to cheat a little! Year 6 at school need revision on germination and plant growth before their SATs test this May. What better way than to actually let them germinate and grow some plants for themselves? MY courgettes! They can germinate them in class, then plant them out into pots, and tend them Then when they are big and sturdy enough to plant out, they can come home (or some of them can), to be planted straight out on the allotment! I’ll just use about 6-10 plants, and the kids can do enough to take home one each too! How’s that for enterprise? IN CONCLUSION Courgettes do take up a fair bit of space, so if you intend growing any, you need to be aware of this. Having said that, the yield from one plant alone can be enormous, so if you like courgettes, it might be worth thinking about making room for just one plant. Maybe the sort that can be tub grown would be a good place to start. Remembe
r that courgettes only really freeze successfully if they are pre-cooked. Fresh courgettes contain lot of water, which if frozen, simply melts away when defrosted. However, if you like these sexy little vegetables, give a plant a go. They look very attractive, with their large yellow flowers, and even as an ornamental plant, they are worth the effort. Happy growing. Lesley 12.04.02