Saturday, 11 September 2010

Within the labyrinth of our Zuchinni/ Courgette plant!

I don't remember the first time I ate a courgette but I do know that for the first thirteen years of my life I had never eaten one. Growing up in Malaysia, we mostly ate gourds like the bitter gourd or hairy gourd, which are closer in size to marrows than courgettes.  Then, we moved to Australia, and one day, I was requested to pick up some cucumbers on my way home from school - I picked up some green courgettes by accident and my mum was all but impressed.  It was then I first learnt about this new vegetable - it was a "zucchini" (or courgettes as they call them here in the UK).

My Courgette Plant
In May, I put in a tiny little courgette seedling that I had bought from a street market.  A few months on, and this once tiny plant has transformed into something of a cross between a giant triffid* and the rib cage of an unborn alien creature. 

(L) Courgette 'ribcage' mid July with courgette and flower (R) Towering leaves from a different perspective
If you've always grown courgettes, then it is what it is, a courgette plant.  If you are like me, and you have never grown one (and you momentarily let your imagination run wild whilst adopting an ant-eye's view), then it becomes an exciting labyrinth of twisted passageways and formidable leaves that tower over those who choose to explore it.  Get in nice and close and you can watch the many ants that embark upon this treacherous, and what must certainly be a prickly journey on their hunt for edible treasures.

Growing Courgettes
These plants are very productive and will produce lots of courgettes, yellow ones in this case, and are well worth the effort (which admittedly is not much at all).  Don't be deceived by the size of the seedling, as these plants get very large, so be prepared to give them a fair bit of space to grow.  

(L) Courgette plant on June 10th  (R) Close up showing the prickly hairs

Both the plant as well as the courgette fruits have fine prickly hairs all over, so getting up close and personal with it leads to some discomfort.  Ouch!

Harvesting Courgettes
According to various sources, the best time to harvest courgettes is when they are young and when they are between 10cm (4 inches) to 12 cm long.  During the height of the season it is also best to pick, pick and pick to keep the plants productive.  (Source: BBC Grow Courgettes

To harvest, you simply need to slice the courgette off at the base (where the fruit meets the plant) with a sharp knife.  In this picture, you can see where I have previously harvested three courgettes.  The plant 'spine' will keep on growing outwards to develop more flowers and fruit.  You will be pleased by the number of courgettes you will be able to harvest from just one plant. 

Eating Courgettes
I love courgettes, picked young and small, they are crunchy and almost sweet and can be eaten raw in salads.   But when griddled, they turn sticky and sweet and are delicious.  Courgette flowers are edible as well.  When I'm using courgettes in salads, I griddle half of whatever quantity I have, and leave the remaining half raw.  That way, you get two distinctly separate flavours and textures with one vegetable.  (Also see the recipe for Courgette Garden Salad).

* A "triffid" is a fictional plant from the novel "The Day of the Triffids" by science fiction author John Wyndham.  When did you first read this novel?

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