The Cottage Smallholder


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I long for a courgette/zucchini glut

Courgettes (zucchini)

I used to agree with Gilbert. Courgettes just didn’t appeal. Perhaps it was an overdose of badly cooked ratatouille back in the seventies – the new craze in the UK at the time.
“It’s the French method for vegetables.” The hostess would chortle.
Back then I was certain that the French would be enraged that this concoction could be claimed to be a cross channel influence. It was vile. Almost enough to put off a vegetarian from being vegetarian.

A similar experience forced Gilbert to ban courgettes, along with their beefier relations – The Marrow Family.
“That nasty watery mush will never darken my table again.”
And I had to agree until I started growing them myself.

The first spring that I tried growing vegetables I soon got caught up in that wild ‘Imusttrygrowingeverything’ surge. I invested in one courgette plant. The small plump ultra fresh courgettes were a revelation – they were sweeter and crisper than the commercially grown ones. They had zroom and loads of elan.  Great raw in a salad, crisped in a frying pan – I didn’t try the dreaded ratatouille but with roasted veg they were a revelation.

Later on I discovered that if they were grated they could be added to slow cooked casseroles and sauces to give them bulk and sweetness. Courgettes take on the flavour of the other ingredients and cook right down. They thicken a sauce and not even a skilled courgette hating detective would never know that they are there.

Even Gilbert has purred.
“This sauce is delicious. Tomatoey yet soft and delicious. What’s the trick? Sugar?”
His wife’s steely gaze stopped any chance of a confession.  I have given Marjorie courgettes in a plain brown wrapper loads of times in the past. 
 
Although I grow hundreds of courgettes each year I never have a glut.
“Why? How?” I hear you gasp. “I can’t give them away! They are great at first but then we tire of them.”
A well tended plant can become a bit like a miracle courgette production machine. They love water and the occasional feed. I lavish mine with both.

Let me share my secret. There is no need to cosy up to the vicar or dumkp them on doorsteps after dark. At the cottage any courgettes that are not destined for immediate use are grated and popped into bags in the freezer. There’s no need to blanch them. During the winter they are pulled out, spread over pizza bases or added to casseroles, soups and sauces. They could of course be dehydrated and stored for later. Just add them to a slow cooked meal in the slow cooker/crock pot for at least two hours.

Courgettes are a great source of folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C.

Indulge your courgette plants and they will give you a harvest and if you freeze or dry them you’ll welcome them back again and again all year.


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25 Comments

  1. I just adore courgettes, roasted, in soup, pastas etc, but this year I have had hardly any. Like Kate, I think mine have been deprived of sunshine. Last year I was picking them every day and had lots in the freezer, but I am so disappointed in them this year.
    Thanks for the tips Fiona. Very useful.

  2. Bib, try Jamie Olivers Butternut squash curry, its good!

  3. Caro (Urban Veg Patch)

    A very enjoyable post with good tips on growing courgettes – I don’t mind a glut either but am thinking of getting a small freezer for next year! I already add courgette to minced beef sauces I make but am always open to new ideas so thanks to Bib, above! My plants look like they might be slowing down now so I’ll treasure the last of the harvest!

  4. Properly made ratatouille is delicious. Most people’s ratatouille is disgusting because they don’t put in the effort to make it the correct way, cooking the vegetables separately. Make a lot, and you can keep the leftovers for extra delicious eating later.

    My other favourite courgette recipes are courgette and cheese soup — this is far, far nicer than it sounds, and a doddle to make — and sauted grated courgettes. To make these you just grate the courgettes, salt them, leave them to drain, and then squeeze all the liquid out. Saute some finely chopped onion in butter, add the courgettes, and toss briskly over a high heat for a few minutes to drive off remaining moisture. Add a good dollop of crème fraîche, some chopped fresh herbs, and some pepper or maybe a spot of chilli. A great side dish, or add more cream to make it more liquid and serve as a sauce for pasta.

  5. I really have had a glut – this has been my first growing season here so I’ve been feeling my way. Back on the allotment I generally used to lose a couple of plants, so here I tried 3 different varieties and put out 7 plants in very poor soil thinking I’d be lucky if any survived. All 7 did -despite only one brief rainfall and me having given up watering them 3 months ago. They have never been fed, yet there’s only been one day when I didn’t cut any; the record was 3.5 kg. My freezer is groaning with them, raw and processed. All our neighbours are truly self-sufficient; everyone who passes by has at least a small veg plot; I haven’t been able to give a single one away. I ended up composting a load, which really upset me, but I had 27kg in the pantry. Yesterday I pulled out 2 plants and put them on the bonfire. I completely agree about using them to improve sauces, it works really well and no-one knows they’re there. I’ve made courgette and ricotta lasagnes, courgette muffins, courgette bread, griddled courgette and aubergine salad (an old favourite – slice lengthways, brush with olive oil, griddle, when warm toss with a little more olive oil if necessary, plus lemon juice, salt and pepper, toasted pine nuts, chopped fresh herbs, chopped chilli, and when cool add crumbled feta), and lots of soup including this one http://aweebitofcooking.co.uk/2009/08/31/courgette-and-carrot-soup/ which is simple, tasty and very adaptable. Oh, and as a side dish: dice some small perky courgettes, sweat with a finely chopped onion and clove or 2 of garlic, about 10 minutes before you think they’ll be done add some halved cherry tomatoes and a handful of chopped basil. Cook until the tomatoes have collapsed and the courgettes are soft. Next year I will put 3 plants in the ground and keep one in a pot in reserve. I am about to have a butternut squash glut; at least they keep better, but if you have any nice recipes, particularly ones that freeze, I’d love to hear them.

  6. Like you F, I`ve had a bad experience of Courgettes/Marrows, so why this year did i grow some?
    Well. I don’t know! but grow one I have, and caught small (6-8″) they are entirely different critters!
    Sliced thinly, crisped in an “Andrew lookalike” with baby steamed Cauliflowers, and served under a poached egg and grated “bite y” cheese, they would almost convert a Carnivore!!

  7. No glut this year, like the tomatoes, they just haven’t had enough sunshine.Did well for a few weeks, then just gave up.Now on the compost heap…if this had been my first year of veg growing I think I might never have bothered again!

  8. Alas, I wish I had my usual glut, but I was gone for a week, during which time the borer worms bore into the stems, made mush of them and killed the plants. Do you have those worms in the UK? Horrid. The only way to rid the plant of them is to slice the stem and pry them out. Double yuck. When I do have a glut, I pick (what we call zucchini) very young, with the blossoms still on, and saute quickly. Dab on a little fresh goat cheese. Perfect.

  9. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    Great idea with the grating and freezing! I’d carve that into my commandment tablets o’Courgettes.

  10. Oh I so agree! Courgettes can be so revolting if cooked to a mush and like many other veg tastes far better when homegrown. I love them mixed with other roasted vegetables or slice them up lenthways fairly thinly, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and grill until slightly crispy round the edge. You can do them like this on the bbq. They take on a completely different flavour, “roll on the glut”, I say!

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