Growing courgettes successfully is both the easiest and hardest thing to get right.
Sow in the warmer temperatures of May, the courgette seeds germinate quickly and the plants grow strong and fast with very little problems. The courgettes start appearing as early as June. That’s the easy bit.
The hardest part of growing courgettes successfully is hitting the sweet spot of production for the kitchen. Too little is not enough to do anything worthwhile and too many are overbearing and quick to become so too. How then do we find the sweet spot?
It’s not enough to simply suggest the number of plants to people ratio. It’s a guide which, although a fair starting point, I’ve realised there is a need to consider the variety of courgette when putting the equation together. Not all courgettes are created equally.
After a few years hiatus growing courgettes, I began growing the summer cucurbit again this year. One thing you hear when you grow your own courgettes for the first time is how prolific they are. And this is true. However, there are differences in the production of each variety.
Black beauty is ridiculously productive. It’s also a common variety to grow. It’s certainly the variety I grew often when I first started. I think basing the decision of how many plants to grow on the experience of growing this variety alone is a bit of a weakness.
This year I have two varieties growing on the allotment. The reason for the choice of varieties comes down to my decision at the start of the year to try and use up the huge number of seed packets I have rammed in my seed tin. Seeds are a resource and I wanted to ensure the numerous packets of veg seeds I had already accumulated were used where possible. That’s a whole other blog post.
Anyway, the two I’m growing?
Romanesco is an heirloom variety from Rome. It’s incredibly attractive in a mottled green skin with creamy, lighter green raised ribs. The texture is fantastic, remaining firm even if left to grow to a large size. It’s already on my grow again list. However, it produces fruit at a fairly slow rate – by which I mean – I’m harvesting one or two decent size fruit from one plant every few days – not to be sniffed at of course!
Atena Polka is a gorgeous yellow variety and I think makes such a fantastic addition to a courgette dish when mingled with the green varieties. However, this plant is prolific in comparison to Romanesco. It produces double the number of courgettes within the same time and I find I need to harvest them when they are much smaller just to keep up with the production.
Since we moved to a predominately plant-based diet two years ago, courgettes have become one of our favourite vegetables to use in the kitchen. Their texture and mild flavour make them incredibly versatile. As well as packing out a vegetable lasagne, they can be used simply, fried with garlic and mingled among spaghetti with a squirt of lemon juice and a generous grating of Parmesan.
Any favourite courgette varieties? Let me know in the comments below.
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