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Fruit & Veg

Name:

Courgettes  (Zucchini)

Fact Sheet: Courgettes

Variety:

Summer Squash

Family

Fruit

A member of the cucurbit family, courgettes are related to watermelons, gherkins and cucumbers. Courgettes are usually marrows harvested at a young age, although the mature fruit of certain varieties of squash may also be sold as courgettes.

Availability:

April - October

Character:

In cafés and simple restaurants across the UK, courgettes are frequently (mis)used to make a poor excuse of a ratatouille or the sort of unappetising vegetable 'lasagne' only ever eaten by desperate vegetarians with no other menu choice. Courgettes (known as zucchini to Italians and Americans) are in fact beautifully tender vegetables with a fresh, delicate flavour.

Usually green-skinned but yellow-skinned varieties are also available. Courgettes are at their best when about 16 - 20 cm long.

Courgettes grow on the plant behind a yellow flower. If they are picked early the flower may be still attached. Rarely seen for sale because they are so difficult to transport, the flower attached to the courgette is highly prized. It is often stuffed with a creamy ricotta based filling and baked still attached to the courgette. Home gardeners can pick them with the flower still attached.

Use:

They are particularly good in stir-fries and barbecues or filled with a savoury stuffing and baked. They are also good when used raw in salads. Courgettes can also be grated or finely chopped and used in flans or quiches. In a similar manner to carrots they also make delicious moist cakes and breads.

Courgette flowers can often be found on the menus of French or Italian restaurants. Smaller flowers are given a tempura treatment (fried in a light batter); larger flowers are typically stuffed with tomatoes and herbs or goat's cheese.

Quality Points:

Smaller, younger courgettes have more flavour. Look for firm, heavy-feeling courgettes with unblemished bright and glossy skins.

Storage:

Refrigerate in plastic bags. Use promptly.

Preparation:

Simply trim the stalk end off and eat either raw or cooked. There is no need to peel them.

Cooking Method:

Steam, boil, microwave, bake, stir-fry, barbecue or grill courgettes

History:

The origin of the courgette is not entirely clear, partly because common usage of the word courgette often relates to plants that transcend botanical classifications. It was not widely eaten in Europe before the twentieth century and some sources claim that it was developed from the squash, first brought to Europe from the Americas during Christopher Columbus' crusades. Squash have been cultivated in central America for more than five thousand years and courgettes play a prominent role in Mexican cuisine today.

Nutrition:

Courgettes have a high water content and are low in calories. They are a source of folate, potassium, and vitamins a and c.

Comment:

Marrows are simply mature or big courgettes.