Ultimate guide to courgettes

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

From the height of summer through to mid-autumn, anyone with a healthy courgette plant or two will be supplied with a regular stream of fresh and tasty veg. But just what is a courgette and what varieties are available to grow?

What is a courgette?

what are courgettes

A courgette (or "zucchini" as it’s also known) is a member of the cucurbit family that also includes squashes, cucumbers and melons.

Each plant has male and female flowers and it’s the latter that produces the edible fruit following pollination. The flowers are also edible.

 

Is a courgette the same as a marrow?

are courgettes and marrows the same thing

Marrows and courgettes are both cultivars of cucurbita pepo, so technically they’re the same plant, but marrow varieties are grown for the tougher skins they develop when they get larger, whereas courgettes are chosen for their flavour when picked young.

Marrows have fallen out of fashion in the UK since the increase in popularity of courgettes (except among folk who like entering "largest veg" competitions) but they’re still well worth growing, stuffing with other foods, and shoving in the oven.

Summer squash is the name given to all cucurbita pepos that, like courgettes, are grown to be picked while immature.

 

Are courgettes easy to grow?

courgette growing

Yes! Sow the seeds indoors and you’re all but guaranteed germination. They don’t much like the cold, so plant out when it gets warm and all danger of frost has passed, and keep your eyes on slugs while they’re still young and tender.

They’re thirsty, so water regularly, and they appreciate a wholesome diet of nutrients—grow them in a good amount of compost or manure and give them an occasional feed once they start fruiting. If you’ve not been looking after them perfectly they’ll show signs of stress with yellowing leaves that can attract mildew, but even if this happens then you’re still likely to get some sort of harvest out of them before they perish.

If you want a constant supply keep picking while young. If you allow them to reach marrow sizes then you’ll reduce the chances of subsequent fruits arriving.

 

Five varieties of courgettes (and other summer squash) to try:

Black Beauty

A classic dark green, shiny skinned courgette that steadily pumps out fruit all summer. Our go-to variety.

Golden Zucchini

One of several golden skinned courgettes. We like these grilled on the barbecue.

De Nice a Fruit Rond

The light, mottled green round fruits are ideal for stuffing and also taste good raw in salads. Our favourite for flavour.

Lebanese

These pale green fruits can suddenly put on a growth spurt and look like clumsy blobs, but they’re a prolific cropper.

We like to roughly chop them into chunks and cook them in stews and tagines.

Tromboncino

Let this plant climb up poles and trombone-shaped fruits will dangle from its stem.

Can be left to turn into hard-skinned squashes, but we prefer them as soft-skinned summer squashes. Also makes a good comedy prop.