So many gardeners just glaze over when faced with a page and half of different courgette varieties in a catalogue or two rows of varieties on the garden centre seed rack. At least the colour of the British-bred ‘Sunstripe’ stands out - and that’s not all.
The colour of ‘F1 Sunstripe’ is unique: the golden yellow fruits are brightly striped in white. The flavour and texture are both excellent, the yield is good too, and you can sow from May to July for cropping from July to October.
The good people at Which? Gardening tested ‘Sunstripe’ last year and harvested an average of 24 fruits from each plant. So you don’t need many plants, and the rest of the seed will keep in the back of the fridge till next year.
Here’s another good thing: the plants are bushy, so they won’t take over the garden as some older varieties do. They’re also completely spine free, so no scratches when you’re picking them. And all the fruits are pretty much the same shape which is very helpful for some dishes.
One final point: even the leaves have yellow markings, the plants give a little spot of brightness in the vegetable plot.
A gourmet treat that can be eaten raw in a salad, try it thinly sliced in place of cucumber, Courgettes rank amongst some of easiest vegetables to grow at home or in the allotment. Cooked as a vegetable, classic organically grown courgettes have a light, sweet and slightly nutty flavour, and a texture that almost melts in the mouth.
Find time to dig into your recipe books and you’ll be surprised at how many ideas you’ll find. Courgettes can be baked, grilled, steamed, stewed, roasted, stir fried, or even eaten raw.
Prepare the Site:
Choose a sunny, sheltered spot and improve the soil by digging in some well-rotted manure or compost. The simplest way to prepare the ground is to dig a hole 30cm (12in) deep and 45cm (18in) across and fill it with well rotted compost or manure. Cover with a 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) layer of soil to make a raised mound that will provide drainage along with a rich source of nutrients.
Each courgette plant will need 1m square (3ft sq) in order to spread and avoid competing with nearby plants. (Alternatively you can grow them in large containers). To get the best results ensure you have good, nutritious growing compost and that you feed them through the season.
Sow indoors in pots March to June or sow direct from mid May to early summer.
Fill a 7.5cm (3in) pot with compost and firm gently. Sow a seed on its side (reduces the risk of damping off disease) 2.5cm (1in) deep and cover. Label, water and put in a propagator or on a windowsill. When roots begin to show through the bottom of the pot, transplant into a larger, 12.5cm (5in) container to grow on. Hardened off before planting them outside, once all danger of frost has passed. Plant into growing bags, soil or a large pot.
If seedlings are planted out too early, and exposed to a period of cold weather, it can set back their development for the whole growing season.
Sowing directly outdoors:
Sow seed outdoors spacing about 90cm (3ft) apart. Place two seeds together at each 'station' and once the seeds have germinated; thin out the weakest seedling. Outdoor sown seed will normally do best if it is given some protection such as a cloche.
Plenty of water is essential, especially when the plants are in flower and then when the fruits have started to swell. Mulch to lock in moisture. If you dig in plenty of manure before planting, additional feeding is unnecessary on heavy, fertile soil. On sandy or light soil, regular drenches with a liquid feed will help boost production.
Plants under glass should be hand pollinated. The female flowers are distinguished by the swelling below the bloom. Male flowers have a prominent central core, bearing yellow pollen. The male flower is first to appear and the female flowers will follow. To hand pollinate, remove the petals from a male flower; push the core into the centre of the female flower. For a high success rate, use a different male for each female flower.
To keep plants productive you need to harvest courgettes about three times a week at the height of the season. Pick when they are 10cm (4in) long. Use a sharp knife to sever the fruit from the plant.
Courgettes are best eaten fresh or can be stored for a few days in the fridge.
Courgette flowers feature in a variety of recipes, stuffed, sautéed, baked and even used in soup. Unlike the courgette itself, you MUST cook the flowers before you eat them. Select flowers which look firm, fresh and that are only slightly open and eat them on the day you pick them as they don’t keep well. You’ll need to remove the pistils from the flower, cut the stem close to the flower and wash and dry it before cooking.
Stuffed courgette flowers are a typical Italian dish that is becoming more popular in the UK. Female blooms produce the vegetable but the male flowers are there just to look pretty so utilise these buttercup-coloured flowers by stuffing them with soft cheese, then covering them in a light batter (such as a tempura) and deep-frying them – delicious, though not exactly figure-friendly.
Vegetable or Fruit?
Although we think of courgettes as being a vegetable they are technically a fruit. This is because the courgette we eat is the ripened ovary of the flower. Other fruits disguised as vegetables include the tomato, the aubergine, peppers and being closely related to the courgette, the cucumber, pumpkin and squash.
Courgettes are merely marrows harvested young although only tender skinned cultivars are suitable for growing as courgettes.
Courgette is French for small squash, courge meaning squash or marrow. And the Italian zucchini (or zucca) means the same. They are often called zucchini especially in the US, Canada and Australia and are also known as Italian squash.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 10 Seeds Common Name Mini Courgette, Mini Marrow Other Common Names Courgette, Marrow, Squash, Zucchini Family Cucurbitaceae Genus Cucurbita Species pepo Cultivar F1 Sunstripe Fruit 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8in) long Spacing 90cm (3ft) apart Time to Sow Sow indoors in pots March to June or sow direct from mid May to early summer. Harvest Harvest about three times a week at the height of the season Time to Harvest 50 days.