Newest Review: ... 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 g... more
They grow on and on and on
Courgettes and Marrows
Member Name: Stewwydablue
Courgettes and Marrows
Advantages: Very heavy cropping, easy to grow
Disadvantages: The dreaded 'courgette glut' - you'll run out of recipes!
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.
Summary: Try growing one of these prolific cropping plants