Beat supermarket price hikes and shortages – grow your own
Courgettes, one of the prettiest of vegetables, are not to everyone’s taste, although they may develop added allure due to their cost after recent shortages. Even if you do like them, you can get heartily sick of them in a glut.
After 2013’s three varieties, I cut it back to one in 2014, just two plants, then none in 2015 and 2016, at the request of my family, who are not courgette fans. Two plants are quite enough to supply an average household.
I’m a fan of Cavili (pale green with a creamy flesh), available again from Thompson & Morgan and also at Dobies of Devon.
I like Cavili because it is parthenocarpic – it has the ability to set fruit without pollination. It manages to perform even when weather conditions are dull and chilly – more often than not in NE England.
However, I’ve also had success with golden Parador – they make an eye-catching pair.
People are often stuck with what to do with courgettes – you can only put up with so many fritters – and life is too short to stuff them, or their flowers.
Make sure you pick them young and tender, about 6” long.
However, courgettes, like carrots and beetroot, make excellent, moist cakes. It’s my advice to tell no-one what’s in a recipe. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.
There are two courgette cake recipes in my COOK section – spicy chocolate and citrus drizzle.
They’re both really good at using up courgettes you forget to pick when you find yourself with huge, tasteless marrows.
Potted guide: courgettes
- SOWING TIME: April-May under glass in a heated propagator, one seed sown sideways in a 3″ pot. Grow on under glass in cooler conditions, before hardening off after the last frosts and planting outside.
- HARVESTING TIME: July-October.
- PLANTING DISTANCE: 90cm (3ft) apart.
- ASPECT AND SOIL: Full sun, light, well-drained. Keep well watered, feed once a fortnight with tomato fertiliser.
- HARDINESS: Tender.
- DIFFICULTY: Moderate – can be badly affected by poor weather conditions and powdery mildew if damp or crowded, and Cucumber Mosaic Virus.
- RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: Cavili (pale green); Defender; Black Forest; Venus; British Summertime; Soleil; Partenon (all dark green); Sunstripe (yellow/white stripes); Eclipse (round green, striped); Zephyr (yellow, pale green ends); Parador (yellow), Tuscany.