Some years your courgette, or zucchini, plants keel over with mildew and hardly give you any fruits at all, and during more successful years they just won’t stop producing. Here are some of my favourite ideas for using up all those courgettes without getting bored or wasting any.
The main issue with courgettes and summer squashes is that they can be a bit watery, especially if they’re older and you don’t cook them in the right way. This can also create problems when you’re thinking about preserving and storing them. But if you keep that in mind, they can be delicious.
When they’re tiny
Cutting your courgettes at the baby veg stage means you get tender, tasty veggies without the weight yield. All you need to do is give them a quick steam or sautee, and maybe add a few soft herbs or a little sprinkle of gremolata just before serving. The flowers on young courgettes can also be stuffed with soft cheese and herbs, and fried as a decadent starter.
Eating courgettes raw
You can eat young-ish courgettes raw, although they should be eaten very soon after they’ve been prepared because they can get soggy after about an hour or so after cutting. Try eating them grated with a little French dressing, or peeled into long strips with a mandoline slicer or a potato peeler and sprinkled with a little garlic oil and parsley.
Some of the best flavours to use with courgettes are mediterranean, but feel free to make up your own flavour combinations. Here are a few ideas:
- Ratatouille – with aubergines, onions, peppers, tomatoes and garlic
- Blended into smooth soups, or diced and added to minestrone
- Roasted simply with olive oil, bay leaves and oregano
- Roasted with French beans and cherry tomatoes for a dinner party dish
- Thickly sliced and chargrilled with a drizzle of chilli oil
- Cut into strips and fried with pine nuts, then mixed into pasta
- Thinly sliced, fried and added to omelettes, quiches and vegetable tarts
- Grilled and topped with pesto and parmesan
- Larger ones can be split, and stuffed with breadcrumbs and herbs, or bolognese-style sauce, and baked
- Grated and added to fritters, stews, and cakes (put into a tea towel and squeeze out excess water if needed)
- Cooked down into the sauce for curries, pasta etc
Preserving your courgettes
If you have a big surplus that you just can’t cook and eat, then it’s time to think of ways to save your courgettes. They don’t freeze raw because they’re too watery, but you can freeze them after grilling, griddling, frying, baking or roasting.
You can also cold pickle them with vinegar and herbs to keep the slices crunchy, or add them to chutney recipes to create a soft sauce that easily takes on flavours.
Many courgette plants will grow you a sort of marrow if you leave the fruit on the plant for long enough. This may well stop a plant from producing any more courgettes, but that might be a blessing in disguise by the end of the summer! The middle of a marrow where the seeds are is usually very watery, so scoop that out and add it to the compost heap, then sprinkle the rest of the marrow with a little salt and leave it upside down in a colander for a while to remove some of the water. Then roast uncovered for 20-30 minutes before adding the filling of your choice (I especially like spiced chickpeas).
The traditional thing to do with a massive glut of courgettes is to give them away to friends and neighbours. You may also be able to donate them to your local food bank, but do contact them in advance to see whether they have capacity to store fresh produce.