Courgette - SeedCucurbita pepo
Ever eaten courgette flowers?
You will see these on sale in the markets of Southern Europe. You too can discover how lovely courgette flowers can look in our recipes! Edible, they are very easy to pick off your courgette plants. Just do so regularly, before they grow into courgettes!Show more
Show moreCourgette seeds require no prior treatment. You could however steep the large seeds in lukewarm water for approx. 12 hours – this encourages germination. Courgette plants have male and female flowers. To encourage pollination it is advisable to plant and grow 2 or 3 at the same time. (Bumble) Bees will do the rest.
How to SowCourgettes are like cucumbers in that they are real heat lovers. Sow indoors or in a greenhouse from mid-April. You can also use a mini greenhouse, using some fairly large turf pots filled with good potting compost, or just in a simple potting tray. A combination of seedlings, plugs and a mini greenhouse makes it very easy. Best is, if you can somehow heat your mini greenhouse from below. The seeds will germinate, no problem, if you can guarantee a temperature of at least 20 °C (day and night). Do not allow the seedlings to dry out! Plant one seed per pot - poke it into the compost to a max. 0.5 cm deep with the end of a pencil and cover with potting compost. Stand your mini greenhouse in a good spot on the windowsill.
The seeds will germinate within the week, depending on the temperature. A few days after germination, alter the humidity in the greenhouse by opening the lid. Once the seedlings reach a height of 10 cm they must become acclimatised to the normal air humidity. To do this, remove the mini greenhouse lid for one hour on day one, then 2 hours on day 2 etc. After five days, they will be used to normal humidity and they can be potted up to larger pots. This will be necessary sooner than you think as the courgette is a fast grower! Allow the young plants to enjoy 20 °C for as long as possible to encourage good growth.
If you do not have a mini greenhouse, a simple seed tray covered with plastic held up with bamboo sticks will suffice. Just prick holes in the plastic to vary the humidity and allow acclimatisation.
Show moreWhen all chance of frost is gone and night temps are above 15°C, preferably 18°C, the plants can go outdoors, or into the greenhouse. Courgette plants prefer well fertilised, moisture retaining clay or sandy soil so choose the warmest spot in your garden. A pot on the patio would do too. Do harden them off by allowing them to acclimatise to outdoor temperatures by leaving them outdoors for an hour longer every day (out of the sun). After a week you can pot them up into larger pots – one per pot as these plants will grow pretty big. Then place the pots in a warm and sheltered position in full sun. The leaves of the courgettes are susceptible to mildew – remove any infected leaves.
Courgette plants have a large leaf for such a stunted plant and more or less crawl across the ground with its short main stem. Fruits that directly touch the soil can rot in wet weather so it is advisable to mulch with straw or lay black plastic around the plants with a short cane tied to the main stem to keep it off the ground. Black plastic also helps warm up the soil so the plants will grow faster.
Courgettes are fast growing plants and respond well from a fertiliser like Bakker's fertiliser for flowering plants, or Bakker's Tomato Fertiliser. They really need it too! Give extra water in periods of drought and keep the bed weed free – pull them out instead of using a hoe, to prevent damage to the shallow roots. This will help them to continue growing well.
HarvestingSimply cut the courgette free from the plant with a sharp knife. Courgettes are best harvested when they are still small, at around 15-20 cm long. The more you pick, the more you will manage to grow! If you leave off harvesting, the courgettes will grow as big as 35-40 cm. This takes more energy from the plant and you will not harvest as many.
You might find sort of prickly growths on the shell of the fruit... just rub these off, they are harmless.
If you have a lot of plants, it is good to know that the flowers too are edible so also suitable for harvesting! You will need to harvest them early morning as they tend to wilt in the afternoon.
Show moreSturdy, fast growers which mean that they become exhausted after a few months and produce fewer flowers, so less fruits. It is therefore advisable to sow again at the end of June to ensure a fresh supply of fruits in the 2nd half of the summer.
How to useCourgettes are very healthy and contain lots of Vitamin B and C as well as Calcium, Iron and Phosphates. Suitable in diets too as they have very little calories.
Courgettes are very versatile when cooking, they are great for using in sauces for pasta, sliced with potatoes, in rice dishes... it's all possible. Try some thinly sliced courgettes topped with cheese and baked in the oven - delicious. Fresh courgettes are also good in a raw salad too! Smaller courgettes have softer skins but the larger, tougher skins are also edible. Stuff a large courgette with mince and cheese... delicious baked!
Courgette flowers are also edible! For something a little different try frying them in batter – delicious!
And here's a method for saving a big harvest: pickle your courgettes! Just the same as gherkins with vinegar, some sugar and some herbs.