Courgette or zuchinni, is a tender, long and green summer squash which is a member of a cucurbita family. Other well-known cucurbitas are cucumbers, melons, squashes and pumpkins. Courgette originates from Mesoamerica, where its ancestors were cultivated for thousands of years. However, in its present shape and form is a rather young vegetable, traced back to 19th -20th centuries in Northern Italy.
Botanically courgette is an immature marrow fruit, which really is a swollen ovary of a zucchini flower. Courgettes have male and female flowers. The male ones form on the stem and they are the first to appear. Female flowers form on the fruit itself. Both types of flowers are edible. Courgettes are known to be a prolific summer crop. You can limit their abundance by picking up male flowers and using them in different recipes.
Courgettes are in season in the UK from June to September. Once picked, they don’t keep very well, so are best stored in a fridge and used up quickly.
Nutritionally, courgettes don’t have many calories, and have a high water content. They contain useful amounts of potassium, folate and vitamins A and C, as well as soluble fibre.
Courgettes are best eaten when small and firm, when seeds are small and immature. Some say, they are at their best when they are between 10 to 15 cm long. However, there are some good recipes for more mature courgettes. Why not try out a brilliant Lebanese roasted courgette dip from Tony Kitous. The first time I’ve tried it, I couldn’t believe courgettes can taste so good: big courgettes, with a bit of tahini, garlic and yoghurt blended becomes a delicious dip. Or try pan-roasting them and dressing with a herby sauce, like in this recipe. Frying them first in your pan, then transferring them into the oven, will caramelise them and increase their sweetness. Others great ways to cook courgettes are griddling or grilling them in strips, stir-frying them or using them in a classic French stew ratatouille.
Courgettes are most often eaten cooked, but you can have them raw too, more so when they are young and their seeds are soft. They lend themselves well, to spiralizing, so you can make a raw courgette spaghetti or a salad. You can shave them thinly with a peeler, and then marinade quickly, like in this courgette gravadlax style recipe . It’s also great in a salad with other veg from cucurbit family, such as cucumber, or melon.
Riverford farm cookbook by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter, 2008
Your kitchen garden, by Helena Radecka and George Seddong, 1975