Courgette: A versatile summer staple

08 Jun 2023

With their double identity as courgettes and zucchini, they can take many forms – from vibrant yellow and striped types to different textures when cooked or enjoyed raw.

In a Nutshell

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History Snippets

Origin Story: Squash varieties may be one of the most ancient cultivated crops, even predating maze and beans. Archaeological findings in present-day Mexico suggest their cultivation by early inhabitants 10,000 to 8,000 years ago. They were a staple in Native Americans’ diets, before European colonisation. Later, in the 19th century, courgettes were brought to Italy, where they evolved into the form we enjoy today. In a very short time, they became the most widely distributed summer squash.

Traditional Folk Medicine: Summer squash has been used in traditional folk medicine to treat colds and alleviate aches.

Earth to Plate

A Berry Used as a Vegetable! Although used like vegetables, courgettes are actually the young fruits of a variety of summer squash in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). Botanically speaking, they are classified as berries, housing rows of many seeds.

Zucchini or Courgette? In the US, it’s zucchini, from the Italian “little marrow.” Meanwhile, in the UK, it’s courgette, rooted in the French word for gourd or marrow. Same plant, different names!

Summer Stars: Compared to winter squash, summer varieties like courgettes are harvested young when the skin is tender and edible. In the UK, they’re available from July to October.

Research Digest

One of your fruit and veg portion ✅

Studies consistently show that regular consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially non-starchy ones, promotes good health and helps prevent chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease and various types of cancers. (Wallace et al. 2019)

 In the mosaic of foods we eat, courgettes contribute…

  • Phytochemicals, mainly chlorophyll, carotenoids and phenolics
  • Fibre, vitamins, especially vitamin C, and essential minerals, mainly potassium and magnesium
  • Plus, they have high water content, increasing your daily water intake

🔎 Some lab studies have demonstrated antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties of vegetables of the Cucurbitaceae family. However, there is limited research on courgettes, so it’s hard to evaluate their specific effects on health. (Kopczyńska et al. 2020)

Tasty Tips

Courgette Around the World

  • France: Ratatouille – typical of the South of France and often served as a side dish in the summer months.
  • Turkey: Mücver – crispy savoury Zucchini Fritters, eaten as a snack, meze or appetizer and typically served with a yoghurt dip.
  • Spain: Pisto – stewed vegetables often served with a fried egg or sliced Manchego cheese.
  • Morocco: Tajine – a slow-cooked stew that often includes courgette along with other vegetables, meat and spices.

Buying: Their high water content makes them perishable. Keep it local and seasonal if you can to avoid air freight. Find your nearest Community Supported Agriculture farm.

If you’re not a fan (yet):

  • Get cooking creative: Try grilling, sautéing or eating them raw as a salad. You might discover a whole new way to love courgettes!
  • Sneaky courgettes: Incorporate them into recipes by grating them into pasta sauces, soups and stews to blend the flavour.

Different ways to eat them for all taste buds

  • Paired with veggies like aubergine and peppers, herbs and spices like thyme, rosemary, mint or za’atar, nuts and seeds and yoghurt.
  • Grilled or roasted: With garlic, olive oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and serve as a side dish or add to a grilled vegetable salad.
  • Raw in a salad: Slice into thin stripes using a peeler and combine with nuts, rocket or peas, crumbled feta and your favourite dressing.
  • In breads or cakes: To add moisture to baked goods, like muffins, cakes and breads.

Recipe inspiration for the week:

Dive Deeper

History & Cultivation: Smith et al. Science. 1997 – Britannica – RHS – Martínez-Valdivieso et al. Nutrients. 2017 – Almanac

Human Health & composition: Wallace et al. 2019 – Kopczyńska et al. 2020



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