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Celery and Celeriac


Courgette Fritatta

Courgette Fritters

Courgette Risotto




Spinach etc.


Courgettes should be a pleasure not a duty: small and freshly picked they are one of the quickest vegetables to prepare and very delicious to eat. If you grow your own the problem is that the plants never produce the right amount at the right time: at the beginning of the season you only have enough to harvest 2 or 3 at a time but once the plants get into their stride the 5cm baby seems to turn into a 50cm monster overnight.
If you buy courgettes try get them only when they would be in season locally, mid to late summer, as imported and intensively grown ones really do not have the best flavour. Courgettes should always feel firm, don’t choose a flaccid courgette, and the skin should feel tender and look bright. Choose small ones, no more than 15cm if possible, that is roughly 2 pinkie fingers long - taking a ruler shopping is a step too far.
If you have to buy larger ones or you get biggish courgettes in a box, use them as an ingredient in a dish rather than as a salad or lightly cooked dish on their own; that way their lack of flavour won’t be so noticeable.

courgettes and plantGrowing your own gives you some control but avoiding a glut is difficult. Every year when I have been overwhelmed I vow to grow just 2 plants the following year, only to find it is a cold, wet summer and the 2 plants do not produce enough for a decent dish. So I up the number of plants again and am again struggling to use them quickly enough. I have found that the best way to cope is to cut my losses, literally. I do not necessarily try to eat every overgrown courgette at once because, by doing that, I never get to eat the little ones before they, too, get over large. So I cut and eat the little ones as I want but I also cut and store the large ones because the plants will slow their production of new fruits if they already have nice large, developing seeds. Don’t, in despair, just leave the marrows on the plant.


Providing it is not bruised a large courgette develops a hard skin that will retain moisture in the flesh for several weeks. Store it in a cool place away from direct heat and don’t drop it. You can then use it, a section at a time if need be, to add bulk to tomato soups and sauces, to thicken stews or to roast with other vegetables. Peel off the hard skin and remove the central pith and seeds if they have got big.

Another way of keeping courgettes until later is to cook them in oil or butter and, when soft, to put them through a food mill, or food processor, to make a purée and then to freeze that. Because courgettes contain so much water they do not freeze well and loose most of their flavour, but cooking them in oil and/or butter transfers their flavour to the oil which can then retain it even during freezing. The purée can be used in sauces, soups and stews to add thickening and increase the depth of flavour.

Courgettes come in many shades of green and in yellow and they can be round as well as long and slim. Growing and using different colours definitely increases their eye appeal. They are a versatile vegetable, delicious in their own right and a valuable ingredient of many dishes. The important thing is to use them as you want and not to become obsessed with trying to cook every last one even when the family is in revolt. It won’t be the end of the world if you have to compost one or two!