If you plant courgettes (or zucchini for the non-UK gardener) no matter how careful you are, no matter how assiduously you check underneath those large spiky leaves, sooner or later a courgette will, like the Incredible Hulk, change from a mild mannered courgette into a disgusting woody watery marrow. There’s no excuse for marrow, I’d certainly never grow one deliberately. When I was little my mother used to do stuffed marrow. Through the rose-coloured spectacles of nostalgia I remembered it quite fondly, so I tried cooking it myself a year or two ago. Frankly its not really very nice at all. You might disagree. You might have the most wonderful recipe for stuffed marrow. Tell me about it, I’d love to know. But be honest, wouldn’t it be even better without the marrow?
In spite of the dangers I do still grow courgettes. Mainly because of the fabulous leaves and flowers. They give a bit of stature and structure to a mini-potager like mine. This year I grew three courgette plants – A yellow variety (can’t remember which), a standard green courgette (Defender F1 hybrid from Thompson & Morgan), and, purely on a whim, I also picked up a Rugosa Fruilana plant from a local nursery.
Next year I shall only grow the Rugosa Fruilana (seeds from Franchi/Seeds of Italy). It may be ugly but its so much more tasty and less watery than any other courgette I’ve ever grown. It’s delicious oven roasted or chargrilled. Even when it’s scarily large and warty it still tastes pretty good.
This is my favourite way of eating it:
Marinated Courgette Salad
2-3 courgettes depending on size
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1/2 Lemon – zest and juice – preferably unwaxed
Flat leafed parsley – small handful
50g Bulghar wheat (optional)
Add a couple of tablespoons of good EVOO to the juice of half a lemon. Add a little lemon zest – I find a microplane grater by far the best way to do this. They are expensive, but brilliant. Finely chop some basil and add. (I often use the small leafed Greek bush basil which sits in a pot by my kitchen door, its quite intense so I only use about a teaspoon, but if you’re using the larger leafed stuff you get in the supermarket you might need a bit more)
If using bulghar wheat cover with boiling water and leave for 5-10 minutes to swell.
Using a vegetable peeler (or a mandolin) slice the courgette into very fine ribbons. Add to the dressing and toss allowing to coat. Add the bulghar wheat if using. Leave for a few minutes to marinate and soften in the dressing. You need quite a high dressing to veg ratio. Just before you want to serve add some chopped flat leaf parsley and the feta.
I often have this for lunch with crusty bread and so I add the cubed feta and bulghar wheat to make it a bit more substantial, but its also good without either. Season to taste (if you’re using feta you probably won’t need salt).