Courgette: Originating from the cucurbit family along with the cucumber, melon and squash, courgettes are often referred to as the Summer squash, commonly found with a dark green or vibrant yellow coloured skin.
Botanically, courgettes are fruits as they are a bi-product of the courgette flower’s reproductive system. Also edible, the flower is harvested when the courgettes are still very small, resulting in a deliciously sweet and tender squash and a delicately floral and interestingly textured edible flower that is commonly stuffed or deep-fried.
Courgettes are easy, rapid growers, making it not uncommon to have a glut around this time of year. Incredibly versatile, courgettes can be used in savoury dishes as well as baking, and can be enjoyed delicately cooked or even raw.
Seasonal period: June to September
Flavour friends: Courgette has a very delicate, sweet flavour that can sometime be a little on the bland side. Their sweetness however, is encouraged with the used of fresh herbs such as mint, basil and dill as well as a bit of punchy garlic.
Salty ingredients also enhance its delicate flavours so blue cheese and parmesan as well as cured meats work perfectly.
For use in baking, courgette works really well with acidity, therefore lemon and lime are great accompaniments.
Buying, storing and preparing: The larger the courgette the more fibrous the flesh, so choose smaller, unblemished varieties for a sweeter, more tender eat. Avoid courgettes that are soft or squishy to touch, or that have bevels in the skin. Courgettes are best stored in the fridge and eaten with 3 days to ensure they remain crisp and fresh. Due to their soft skins, unlike marrows, courgettes do not require peeling, so simply wash thoroughly and top and tail.
Cooking: courgettes can be boiled, grilled, baked, barbecued, sautéed or fried. Boiling is less desirable due to courgettes’ high water content, so blanch for a couple of minutes rather than boiling away in a pan.
For grilling and barbecuing, brush the courgette itself with a little oil and season before directly placing it on the grill. Be careful when turning your courgettes are they will be a little delicate once cooked.
Sautéing or frying is a great way to maintain their flavour and vibrancy. Simply fry in a little butter with garlic for 5 minutes and serve.
Words by Helen Upshall