Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Courgette time

Harvest time is here in my garden, and the plants that were nurtured in the greenhouse during the chilly, uncertain spring months are finally coming into their own. My produce has been a little slow in coming this year, which I can blame on the cool, wet summer although I suspect human error had something to do with it too – being late already in what turned out to be a late, cold summer isn’t going to have been particularly helpful.

Anyway, we have reached courgette glut time, which seems to be irrepressible no matter how slack your spring gardening was. Does anyone not have a courgette glut right now? I discovered this week that the US even has a special annual day on the 8th August entitled ‘National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day’, which is hilarious and conjures beautiful images. Zucchinis/courgettes are everywhere at the moment, and many of us have gone from not enough garden produce to oh wow, way too much garden produce in the matter of a couple of weeks.

Courgette ‘Gold Rush’ in full flow

My own courgette glut is not too bad mainly because I have learnt the hard way. I have had my years of pressing courgettes into the hands of every visitor, or even every random passerby. It is very hard at the beginning of the year when everything is so lean and mean to conceptualise things growing easily and bountifully, and producing in abundance. Which makes it very hard not to sow ten or twelve seeds and see what comes. But I now longer do this. I sow maybe four courgette plants early in the year, expecting one or two not to make it. The resulting plants are the ones in crop now, and they do me just fine and provide plenty enough courgettes to keep my family topped up with all the courgettes and courgette flowers that they will happily eat (especially as I have two teenagers who are not best enamoured with courgettes at the best of times).

I then sow another couple of seeds in late spring or early summer, May-June time. Looking at your courgette plants now you might think it’s like turning on a courgette plant, and that they will go and go forever, but in fact the plants do begin to run out of steam towards the end of the summer. Those sown in early summer will pick up as the current crop begins to tail off, pushing the harvest as late into autumn as possible.

And I have one more trick for beating the glut: pick early and small. You can buy supermarket-sized courgettes in the supermarket now for ten-a-penny, they are cheap and plentiful. What you cannot buy (except at the posher supermarkets for a premium price) are tiny little courgettes. Courgettes picked young and small are sweet and dense and make beautiful salad ingredients, uncooked. I slice them into little rounds and toss them into salads where they look pretty, especially yellow-skinned varieties such as this ‘Gold Rush’.

And if they really start to get overwhelming, nip them in the bud even earlier. Courgette flowers are a real gourmet ingredient and one of the boons of growing your own as you will rarely find them in any shops. If you want to keep your courgettes flowing, just pick the ‘male’ flowers, that is the flowers with no mini fruit in the stem behind them. But if you want to slow down the flow entirely pick the lot, mini fruits and all. Shred them over salads, stuff them and batter them, or fry in butter and finish with lemon juice and salt. A delicious summertime ingredient that you wouldn’t have any other way.