I read a lot of blogs and veg growing books, and something occurred to me the other day: I’ve never seen anything that says ‘courgette plants are amazing! They’re incredible!’
There is a lot of discussion about gluts, and keeping up with the harvest. Sometimes the courgette’s prolific nature can almost develop into a negative thing. Looking back over my Twitter feed, I’ve been guilty of this recently. I started a conversation about another courgette-based dinner, and soon I was bemoaning a #courgetteglut as if this was some kind of hardship.
This is my attempt to turn the tables. Courgettes, I know I take you for granted. I’ve never sung your praises like I do other vegetables. I’m sorry. You’re brilliant, and I love you.
Prolific and Speedy Fruiter
What other vegetable is so prolific? Find me another vegetable that will grow several inches in a day. As daft as it sounds, the speed in which a courgette can grow between the morning and evening has made me jump in the past.
Keeping an eye on your courgettes is key. Turn your back for a couple of days and you’ll end up with marrows. Trying to stay on top of the courgette harvest does require constant checks this time of the year, but I wish many of my other plants were as productive.
The unfussy courgette plant is also a beginner’s dream. I have very fond memories of growing courgettes during my first allotment year. I raised three plants and they all grew beautifully. Very little else did in my first year, but my courgettes made me feel sky high. They gave me confidence that, yes, I could learn this growing your own stuff.
If you’re just starting out on the road to allotment glory, I’d definitely recommend putting courgettes on top of your seed buying list. The fruits will become one of your biggest harvests, and hopefully give you the sense of pride I felt when I wandered back home with a bag full of courgettes.
Preventing Blackfly and Mildew
As well as being easy to grow, courgettes are genuinely reliable and fairly pest resistant too. Sometimes a plant will pick up a few black flies, but these are easily chased away by squirting with warm washing up liquid diluted into water.
The leaves might also develop powdery mildew in the summer, which can be caused by hot days and cool nights; and dry soil conditions. To help prevent this, try not to plant your courgettes too close together, and keep them well watered. Mulching regularly helps, and planting in a recess helps hold the water around the plant for longer.
How to Grow
Courgette seeds can be sown directly, but I prefer to raise mine in pots. I sow inside, into individual pots of multipurpose compost towards the end of May and plant out in early June.
A courgette plant can grow up to 3 feet in height, so allow at least 60cm between planting or sowing positions. Sometimes they might need a little support to stop them falling over, but tying the stalk to a cane or stake is all they need to stay upright.
Mr. Fothergill’s Courgette Zucchini has always been my favourite variety to grow, mainly due to reliability. If you’re looking for something different try one of the yellow courgettes such as Parador. These are nuttier in taste than the conventional courgette and add colour to dishes. The round varieties are also fun to grow.
Courgettes in the Kitchen
Courgettes are actually fairly flexible in the kitchen too, which is handy as one plant can produce anything between 10 and 20 fruits during the summer. Griddled with garlic, and mixed into a pasta dish such as Mary McCartney’s Courgette and Lemon Spaghetti, they’re like summer on a plate.