Ingredient of the Month: Courgette

Name Courgette
Alternative names Zucchini, Cucurbita pepo
Grows in Spain, New Zealand, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Turkey, France, Portugal, Israel, Iran, etc.
The UK imports from Spain, Morocco
Short history The genus Cucurbita originated in North America and South America. It is thought that a form of courgette was cultivated from 7000BC, making it one of the oldest vegetables of the world. The type of courgette sold today was developed in Northern Italy and Tuscany in the second half of the 19th century.
Fun facts
  • Courgettes can grow up to a meter in length but are usually harvested at 15-25cm
  • They have a ‘male’ and ‘female’ flower, both of which are edible
  • Gold Rush and Defender are the names of two courgette varieties which can be grown in the UK

Top health benefits

Most recently, the courgette has made the news because of the ‘courgette crisis’. In winter 2017, the cold and wet weather in Spain hit crops and affected UK imports to the extent that many supermarket shelves were empty. Where courgettes continued to be imported, prices more than doubled in a week. Many warn that climate change is likely to drive more frequent and more severe changes in weather patterns, while others point to the need to eat more locally grown and seasonal food.

Let’s hope that the courgette is resilient! It is a fantastic vegetable and my ingredient of the month for the following reasons: it is versatile so can be eaten in many forms, it goes well with a wide range of spices (including cumin, parsley and ginger) and it is a staple for the Mediterranean diet.

Courgette can simply be roasted in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. However, if you want to venture further afield, I would recommend the following courgette recipes:

  1. Courgette bundles

The courgette strips serve an envelope function in this dish by holding together the spinach, feta cheese, red onion, pine nuts and other ingredients. Courgette bundles showcase the courgette in an unusual form, and make a great starter or side dish. Goodbye cocktail sausages, hello courgette bundles.

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  1. Zoodles – in so many forms!

Zucchini noodles are easy to make with a small spiraliser and can be used to create an almost endless array of zoodle dishes. I would use this recipe as the base, but experiment with different combinations of vegetables, spices and sauces. Avocado pesto works very well with zoodles, in which case you can serve a zoodle salad. Alternatively, you can gently fry the courgette strains for a warm zoodle dish. Happy spiralising!

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  1. Courgette, lime and pistachio cake

Could this be the new carrot cake? You can be the judge of that when you try this unique combination of ingredients in cake-form. The Greek yogurt makes the cake wonderfully moist and the gentle hint of lime means that it is not too sweet. The pistachio nuts add a healthy crunch, while the cream cheese frosting creates just the right finishing touch.

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