Growing your own food can be a pure delight!

Keep picking those courgettes!
Keep picking those courgettes!

The lady of the house is delighted to see so much fresh produce arising from our continuing efforts in the garden but as usual is asking “What are we going to do with them all?”

This crops up every year whether it’s a glut of tomatoes, plums, lettuce or more recently – peaches! When the question arose as we examined one of the vegetable beds last week, I was able to say “You`ll find the answer in that book on the shelf.”

The Peregrine peach tree growing in a greenhouse border is into its fourth year and we wouldn’t be without it. It cost less than £20 as a pot-grown plant and produced 10 large fruits the first summer. Last year was about the same but this time – wow! We’ve estimated 60 or so and interestingly, as some are picked, those left are benefitting from the bigger share of available food by increasing in size – just as fellow grower Philip said they would.

The tree is included in the weekly round of feeding which envelops tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. This it clearly enjoys, but the question arises; apart from a daily pick-and-eat routine, or giving excess away, what can you make from an embarrassment of peaches?

Thankfully there was no such dilemma when we stood over the bed of cucurbits in the vegetable garden a few days ago. The book with the answers I referred to is a paperback by Elaine Borish entitled What Will I Do With All Those Courgettes? Published by Fidelio Press (ISBN 0952488159) at £7.95, it is a cookery book for those with a garden full of these highly underrated vegetables. The contents, 150-plus recipes for main course, soups, salads, bread and cake, caters for absolutely all tastes.

One of the many appetisers suggested is zucchini fritters which comprises zucchini, flour, egg white, salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus the oil for deep frying. Zucchini pancake with grilled chicken and accompanying salad also sounds good as a lunch choice, but as with all cookery books, it’s far more exciting if you take any recipe as a guideline and add your own touch to it.

In keeping with other cucurbits, cucumber for example, courgettes develop behind the female flower which is generally retained until they are harvested. Indeed, it is a point in favour if they are present when either vegetable is placed on the show bench. Courgette flowers are generally large, spectacular, yet delicate to touch and they wilt rapidly after picking but can be frozen until there are enough to eat. They can then be dipped in batter and fried to light golden fritters, as the book reminds us.

Courgettes and zucchini are one and the same. The English and French use the former name, Americans and Italians the latter. They are grown as bush plants that last for one summer, and the more you harvest, the more the plant produces. If you stop picking, say go on holiday for a fortnight, some will have grown into big marrows when you return.

We start them off indoors with gentle heat in April, a single seed to a small pot, pressed edge downwards to avoid rotting, just under the compost surface. Plant them out at 60 centimetres apart in late May.

If you don’t have a garden don’t worry, they grow well enough in containers. Five plants will easily keep a family going all summer long, and therein lies our problem. This year we are undertaking trials with four varieties, five of each, a total of twenty plants. Each of these cultivars; Defender, Tiger Cross, Parador and Exp 9 is producing well so far.

Returning to the courgette cookery book, the writer goes beyond recipes in suggesting ways of dispersing excess produce, relating that an acquaintance stuffs a bag full, places them on a neighbour’s doorstep, rings the bell, then vanishes. Now there’s a thought!