Also known as Courgette. A prolific producing warm season annual plant that is part of the marrow family. Popular varieties include “Black Jack” and “Golden”. “Romanesco” is harder to find, but worth growing for it’s green striped exterior.
2 plants will provide plenty for a family of 4, so don’t plant too many unless you are planning on using in preserves. While your gifts of home grown produce will initially delight your friends and family, dumping piles of Zucchini on them will quickly make people wary of your visits!
Raise from seeds in early Spring ready for planting out when the soil warms up. In a temperate climate plant between September and February. I pop the seeds into egg cartons, and then rip a little hole into the bottom and plant the whole thing into the ground when they are big enough.
They will need a bit of room (space 1.5 metres apart) as they can form large clumps and tend to march across the ground for a metre or so. I put mine in a corner of a bed and let them wander across the footpath or lawn, rather than grow back into the vegetable garden where I need room for other crops. They can cope in poorish soils, but certainly appreciate some manure or compost dug in prior to planting. A liquid fertiliser with potash at flowering time is also beneficial.
Prone to mildew, but otherwise you won’t get too many problems. Bee activity will promote fertilisation and therefore fruit set, if you have flowers but no zucchinis appearing this is due to cold temperatures or low bee activity. The only way to intervene is to pick a male flower and brush it onto the female flowers to move things along.
I prefer to pick when they are about 10 to 15cm long, remember to check daily as they can get away from you.
When you get to the end of the season and you are a bit over them – let one get really big just for the fun of it! It won’t be any good to eat, but the kids will enjoy watching the progress. Just chop it up and compost it at the end.
Cooking with Zucchini
Stuffed zucchini flowers are just gorgeous, and a dish that every cook should prepare once in their lives. Use the female flowers, and prepare by removing the internal stamen (and check for any sneaky bugs in there too). Best to pick the flowers early in the morning. A simple stuffing of soft cheese (goats, ricotta) and herbs, and a light (tempura style) batter is all the treatment needed. Serve with a side of tomato relish/compote.
Zucchini work well as part of a grilled vegetables mix with eggplant and tomato – which all fruit at the same time. Simply brush with oil and grill on a cast iron plate over high heat.
Strips of Zucchini can be stunning when combined with a spaghetti pasta, lemon rind and olive oil. Also try grating finely and incorporating into a bolognaise mixture or use chunkier pieces in a stir-fry. Try using thin slices of raw Zucchini, simply drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice as a salad.
Frittata, muffins, fritters, breads and cakes are also great to use Zucchini in – as are relishes and pickles.
Try a stuffed baked Zucchini as a side dish next time you do a roast chicken. Check here for our Zucchini recipies.