COURGETTES ARE BRILLIANT ALL-ROUNDERS
You can steam, grill, fry, bake or stuff them, spiralise them to make a low-carb alternative to pasta, and even incorporate them into breads and cakes. What’s more, they’re amazingly easy to grow. And with a bit of luck they’ll carry on cropping well into October.
An easy way to get started is to buy young courgette plants from your local nursery in spring. Alternatively you can raise your own from seed. It’s more work, but it means you can choose from a range of interesting heritage varieties, many of which are quite different from the courgettes you see in the shops.
COURGETTES FOR CONNOISSEURS
‘Tondo di Piacenza’ is a round courgette, ‘Striato d’Napoli’ is stripy, ‘Burpees Golden Zucchini’ is day-glo yellow and ‘Verde di Milano’ is virtually black. You can buy heirloom varieties like these from specialist independent seed merchants such as The Real Seed Catalogue, realseeds.co.uk.
Start courgette seeds off in spring, in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill, planting one seed per 10cm pot. In early May, begin acclimatising your seedlings to chillier outdoor conditions. Put them in a cold frame, if you have one, otherwise simply take them outside during the daytime and bring them back under cover at night. After a week or two, start leaving your pots outside permanently, except when there’s a particularly cold night forecast.
Plant out your young courgettes at the beginning of June, allowing a square metre of ground for each one – they’re massive plants! Dig a pit the size of a small bucket in the centre of each patch. Fill it with a rich mix of soil and homemade compost or well-rotted manure, and plant your young courgette on top.
Water regularly and generously, and feed every couple of weeks with diluted liquid seaweed extract. It’s best to harvest your courgettes by cutting through the stem with a knife; if you pull at them you risk damaging the rest of the plant.
Pick your courgettes regularly while they are small and tender and your plants will carry on cropping for longer.