Courgettes are a must-have in any summertime kitchen and the craze for spiralising has greatly enhanced the popularity of this humble vegetable.
Part of the squash, marrow and cucumber family, courgettes are available all year round but are at their best from June until October. The name ‘courgette’ is the French term we’ve adopted, whereas in North America, Italy and Australia they’re known as ‘zucchini’, which comes from the Italian ‘zucchina’, meaning ‘small squash’.
Steamed, grilled, baked, fried or even eaten raw, courgettes are a versatile summer squash that work just as well with barbecued chicken or fish, grated into salads, used in stews or casseroles, or griddled and paired with fresh herbs and lemon.
Low in calories, courgettes count towards your five-a-day, while being easy on your waistline. With about 2g of carbs per 100g, and low glycaemic index (GI), they will have very little effect on your blood glucose levels.
Tips for buying and storing
- Courgettes can grow to nearly a metre long – but the ones with the most flavour are usually the smallest.
- Go for courgettes that are firm, with bright, shiny and unblemished skin. If a courgette feels soft and looks dull, it usually means it’s no longer fresh.
- There are lots of varieties of courgettes for you to try – Striato Pugliese is a bright green, striped courgette, while you can also get hold of compact varieties such as ‘Midnight’; ball-shaped courgettes; and yellow varieties, such as Gold Rush.
- Eat courgettes while they’re fresh – within a few days of buying – as they lose their flavour quickly. Store them in a vegetable storage bag in the fridge.
- Avoid buying courgettes out of season – imported ones can be a week old before they even reach the shelves, so will lack some flavour.
5 ways with courgettes
- Add some extra crunch to a summer salad by adding a raw, grated courgette. It works perfectly with mint, lemon, and garlic and a little olive oil.
- Give the potatoes a rest and make courgette chips, instead. Coat in a little oil and season, before roasting for 20 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, or, alternatively, fry in a light batter.
- Add to pasta and noodle dishes – as courgettes are extremely quick to cook, they are a good accompaniment to these dishes.
- Swap pasta for ‘courgetti’ – use a spiraliser gadget or vegetable peeler to make spaghetti-like ribbons of courgettes. This is a perfect option if you are trying to lower your intake of carbohydrates.
- Courgettes aren’t just for savoury dishes – they can be a healthy addition to sweet bakes, too. For a treat, add to a chocolate cake or try making courgette muffins.