These are probably the most popular members of the squash family for cooking purposes – they don’t even need to be peeled or seeded. For a tasty salad, just blanch the whole fruit for about 2 mins in boiling water to remove the bitterness – then dry, slice and serve.
To get the best results from your crop, choose a sunny spot protected from strong winds, with soil that’s well-drained and rich in humus. Prepare in autumn by digging in lots of organic matter and applying a general fertiliser just before planting. Most households will need only a few plants, so prepare a few planting pockets rather than sowing long rows.
End of May – June.
Sow 3 seeds 1” deep and a few inches apart at the centre of each pocket, and cover with a large jar or cloche to hasten germination. When the first leaves appear, thin out to leave the strongest plants.
3-4 courgette plants, or 2 squash or marrow plants, should be enough for most households. If you buy your plants, or if you start yours off indoors, make sure they’re “hardened off” before planting, by putting them outside for several days and bringing them in for protection at night.
Pinch out tips of the main shoots of trailing varieties when they reach 2ft long, and renew slug pellets at the first sign of damage. Keep the soil moist, and water copiously around the plants – not over them. Place black polythene or mulch around the plants in summer before the fruits form. Once the fruits start to swell, feed the plants every 14 days with a tomato fertiliser. Sit each fruit on a tile to prevent rotting or slug damage.
Pick your courgettes and marrows for cooking when they’re still quite small (courgettes 4”, marrows 8–10” long). To see if they’re ready to pick, push your thumbnail into the surface by the stalk – if it goes in with ease, the marrow is ready to pick. If your marrow is big and heavy, cut the stalk while it’s still lying on the ground, then lift the marrow away.
Courgette varieties include:
- El Greco
- Green Bush
- One Ball
Marrow varieties include:
- Long Green Bush 3
- F1 Tiger Cross
- Table Dainty
- Spaghetti – this variety is slightly unusual. After boiling or baking the whole fruit, you can scoop out the insides and use this as an alternative to spaghetti.
Scotsdales star tip
Marrows grow in the same way as courgettes – just leave the fruits to mature before cutting and cooking them immediately. Boiled marrows can turn out a bit watery, so it’s much tastier to bake or braise them.