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Grow to eat: courgettes, our generous summer friends

Courgette 'One Ball F1
Courgette 'One Ball F1' Credit: GAP Photos

Let’s take a moment to appreciate courgettes. Often the butt of gardener jokes about having so many they can’t give them away, it’s easy to forget why we love them. Filled with the energy and flavour of summer, I eat them raw in salads sliced with a potato peeler or as courgetti. (To keep courgetti firm, don’t cook, simply stir into a hot sauce).

Seeds can be planted now indoors. More variety is available to gardeners online than in shops. ‘Defender F1’ from thompson-morgan.com is my go-to for classic courgettes, ‘Romanesco’ too, with its striped skin from mr-fothergills.co.uk. Pick these small (6in/15cm) before the mushy seed bit in the middle forms.

For something a little quirky, ‘Zephyr F1’ has yellow fruit and a green tip that looks painted on. I’m hooked on the ball-shaped cultivars ‘Eight Ball F1’, ‘Eclipse F1’ and ‘Summer Ball F1’. They should be picked a little bigger than a ping-pong ball, when sliced they’re perfect griddled.

Courgettes grow easily with a good start to life. Place seeds individually in 3in (7cm) pots to a depth of 1in (3cm) using ordinary peat-free compost. Water and leave on a warm windowsill or in a greenhouse. When a few leaves have grown, position outside during the day from late-May for a week, toughening them to the outdoors, then leave overnight too for a second week.

While doing this, dig out a cube of soil to a spade’s depth where they’re to grow, backfilling with nutritious compost mixed with the soil. Space cubes 3ft (90cm) apart and plonk the seedlings into these. Water with seaweed fertiliser fortnightly and don’t be put off if they are slow to fruit, as male flowers often appear first.

Keep careful watch to pick the fruit while still small. On my allotment, a tiny courgette can seemingly grow to marrow proportions overnight!

  • Find Jack’s blog at jackwallington.com. Follow him on Twitter @jackwallington Instagram @jackwallingtongardendesign