Cooking courgettes | Growing Courgettes | Varieties | Sowing | Planting | Watering | Picking | Troubles
Courgettes is the French name for immature marrows, and zucchini is the Italian. Vegetable marrows were grown for many years before they became known by their French and Italian names, but not very much. In fact, it was rare to see vegetable marrows grown in Irish gardens and if they were, it was more for curiosity, or for a local show, than for eating. The breakthrough came when people began to use immature marrow, or courgette, in cookery.
All of a sudden, a ‘new' vegetable had arrived and lots of people like them and now grown them. It is a very easy vegetable to grow and quick to develop. Originally from North America, the vegetable marrow is considered botanically similar to pumpkins and squashes - the various kinds just being forms of the same species, Cucurbita pepo. The immature marrows are taken off the plant when little more than finger length, although they can also be allowed grow to about 15 centimetres. The flowers can also be eaten.
Courgettes are an excellent source of vitamin C and also supply folate, potassium, fibre and small amounts of other vitamins and minerals. Courgettes are very versatile in cookery and easy to prepare - trim the stalk end off and eat either raw or cooked. There is no need to peel them. Steam, boil, microwave, bake, stir-fry or grill courgettes - they are particularly good in stir-fries and barbecues, or filled with a savoury stuffing and baked. They are good when used raw in salads. Courgettes can also be grated or finely chopped and used in flans or quiches. Used in a similar way to carrots they also make delicious moist cakes and breads. The brilliant yellow flowers can be used stuffed or in salads, or as decoration.
Look for varieties that are resistant to cucumber mosaic virus and powdery mildew. There are lots of varieties with resistance to the former, such as ‘Tiger Cross', ‘Supremo' and ‘Defender'. The former standard variety ‘Green Bush' has no resistance. ‘Dundoo' is credited with mildew resistance as well as being virus resistant. There are yellow kinds too, such as ‘Gold Rush'.
Sow the seeds indoors in mid-April to late April and have young plants for planting out in late May. Seeds can be sown for later crops too - courgettes take something over 60 days to first fruits.
Plant out in late May or early June into rich, fertile ground in full sunshine about 90 centimetres apart each way. Usually a couple of plants will be enough for most households. Water a little at planting and give no more water until very strong growth begins, unless the weather is exceptionally dry.
Avoid ground that dries out as it encourages powdery mildew. When growth is active water to keep the ground nicely moist.
Pick the first fruits are soon as they are ready and keep them picked. Use the flowers too. Excess fruits can be cooked and frozen for winter use.
Cucumber mosaic virus can strike susceptible varieties very rapidly, causing the youngest leaves to turn yellow, and patchiness in the older ones. It effectively stops growth. Powdery mildew slows growth and looks bad but often the plants keep cropping at a lower rate.