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Cucumber: Short »« Chokos: Chayote

Courgettes

Curcubita pepo


Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand

Description

When at their best and served correctly, courgettes are nothing like the unappetising mush sometimes found on grandma’s stove.

A member of the same family as pumpkin, squash, and watermelon, courgettes (zucchini if you’re Italian or American) are fresh-tasting vegetables that are great at picking up other flavours.

Courgettes come in a variety of colours – in supermarkets they’re usually green, though yellow and striped varieties exist – though all taste similar. Using a mixture of colours can look fantastic.

Choose courgettes that are relatively small, as these tend to have more flavour. They should have unblemished, glossy skins and feel relatively firm. Store in the vegetable crisper of the fridge.

Courgettes are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as folate and potassium.

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History

The history of the courgette is a bit of a mystery. As with other types of squash, its ancestry is derived from the Americas, but the courgette as we know it was probably developed in Italy in the 19th century. In the United States, there are no records of them before the 1920s, when they were probably brought over by Italian immigrants.

Uses

Courgettes are a very good addition to stir fries. Add them close to the end so they retain their crunch; they cook quickly.

An excellent summer meal to make using courgettes is the traditional French dish, ratatouille. In olive oil, cook courgettes, eggplant, tomatoes, capsicum, garlic, onions, and herbs until you have a soft, mushy sauce. You can have it as a side dish, on pasta, on rice, or as bruschetta. It’s best made the day before, to allow the flavours to develop, and served at room temperature.

If you prefer a light salad, shave courgettes into strips, cook very briefly in salted water, and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, mint, and seasoning. This salad looks beautiful when you use green and yellow courgette, and can also be served on ciabatta toast.

Facts

Courgettes are among the easiest vegetables to grow in the garden – but you have to stay on top of the harvesting or they turn into marrows, which, while useable, are much less tasty.

Their flowers are also edible, and can be used as a garnish, or stuffed and fried.

We use courgettes as vegetables; botanically, however, they’re the ripened ovary of the flowering female plant.



Cucumber: Short »« Chokos: Chayote

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