Courgettes are part of the group of Summer Squashes from the Americas. They have soft skins and a mild juicy flesh, and will not store for any length of time. They should be used as soon as possible after having been cut, as they do not store well, even in the fridge.
Two or three plants are all you are likely to need, as they produce so many Courgettes once they get going! The yellow ones are more attractive, but all types, green, round, should all be picked young, while they are still tender. The flowers can also be eaten.
Start them indoors or in Greenhouse. Use a good quality compost and sow the seed on edge in separate pots. Harden them off in a cold frame for two weeks. Plant out after all danger of frost has passed.
They are very vigorous plants and you should allow up to ¾ sq m per plant.
Protect from slugs and snails and keep well watered. Will benefit from plastic or cloche protection for the first month in their final positions, to protect from late frosts and cold winds.
Pick the fruit while they are still young, say up to 15 cm long.
Warning. On no account plant out these sub-tropical plants before the last expected date for frost in your area. This could be mid May for the mildest areas such as Southern coastal areas, and early June in the North of the UK. Even then, provide cloche or fleece protection for the first few weeks as cold nights and winds will cause plant damage. Gardeners are regularly caught out by late frosts occurring during the traditional cold period known as “The Ice Saints”, usually just before mid May. Remember, one night of a late frost will kill your sub-tropical plants!!
Pollination by Bees is required to set fruit for most varieties, except for the new parthenocarpic varieties (see below). Some growers have difficulty in getting the early fruits to set and start growing without rotting or dropping off. This can be caused by damp weather, poor light or lack of pollination by Bees. Try hand pollination. During a period of wet and damp weather, once the fruit has started to grow, remove the remains of the spent flower as it can cause rot to spread to the fruit. Place a tile or slate under the fruit to prevent rot if it touches the wet ground.
Storage. Courgettes are best used fresh, but can be kept for 2 or 3 days in the fridge crispator. They can be pickled for longer term storage.
Courgette Pests and diseases. Slugs and snails can cause immense damage to the young seedlings and young plants, particularly when they are first planted out in their final positions. Make sure that you apply your chosen slug treatment immediately they are planted in their final positions.
Cucumber mosaic disease causes mottled leaves and distorted fruit, and any infected plants should be destroyed. I have never seen this disease.
Powdery Mildew can be a problem towards the end of the season, but most people do not bother about treatment.
Suggested varieties of Courgette.
Jemmer F1. A yellow skinned variety producing many Courgettes.
Tuscany F1 A very productive green skinned variety.
Parthenon F1 and Cavili F1. These two have a “parthenocarpic” habit, which means that they are claimed to be able to set fruit without pollination. This would be useful if you are growing under cloche protection or in a greenhouse.
Zapallito Del Tronco. This is a real find and is actually a variety of Winter Squash, Cucurbita Maxima. It is usually used when young and still light green, as a Courgette or even as a Cucumber. The consensus view is that when used as a Courgette, it is better tasting than a standard Courgette. In the areas surrounding Buenos Aries in Argentina, it is an important commercial crop when it is used while still young and tender.
If allowed to mature on the plant and harden off, it will store and keep till the following Spring. After storage, the skin can be peeled with a potato peeler, seeds removed and pan fried.
As It is a very large bush plant, allow 1 sq m. It should produce about 10 cannonball sized fruits.
COURGETTE (Cucurbita pepo)
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