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Seasonal ingredient: courgettes

Here's how to make the best of this tasty vegetable


Courgettes really start to come into their own at this time of year.

A versatile summer vegetable, courgettes, which are also known as zucchini, have a very mild flavour and work extremely well in a multitude of dishes. Here's how to get the most out of this delicious vegetable. 

Courgettes originated in Central America, most likely Mexico, where it was eaten by natives for years before it was discovered by European colonisers. However, thin-skinned green courgettes, which is the variety most commonly used in Ireland, were cultivated in northern Italy in the late 1800s. The first written record of the word zucchini can be found in a Milanese piece from 1901.

Nutritionally speaking, courgettes are a great addition to any diet. High in fibre and water, courgette is a great source of vitamin B6, C and K, as well as riboflavin, folic acid and potassium. Courgettes can also help to boost energy, lower blood pressure and improve digestion.

Getty Images.
Getty Images.

Buying and preparing courgettes

The most commonly used courgettes in Ireland are green and yellow courgettes, but there is a wide variety available, most of which are more commonly used in different countries, including summer squash and round courgettes. A fully grown courgette is known as a marrow in the UK and Ireland, which have a similar flavour and texture to courgettes.

When buying courgettes, it's important to look for shiny vegetables with unmarked skin that feel heavier than they look. If they feel light and spongey when lifted, then they are past their best. Try to buy courgettes as you require them, as they can start to lose their flavour after a few days in the fridge. 

Courgettes don't need to be peeled before use, so it's important to make sure that you wash them before you eat them. We also wouldn't recommend boiling or steaming courgette as the flesh can take on a lot of water, which results in a mushy final product. Other than that, courgettes can be cooked using most other methods and take particularly well to roasting, barbecuing and stir-frying. 

A popular method of using courgettes is to eat them as 'courgetti' or 'zoodles' in which they are used to replace noodles or spaghetti to make a meal lower in carbohydrates than normal. This effect is achieved by spiralising the courgette, peel and all, using a spiraliser. However, if you don't own a spiraliser, you can produce a similar result by very thinly slicing the courgette lengthways, then cutting each slice into thin strips.

Different varieties of courgettes. Getty Images.
Different varieties of courgettes. Getty Images.

How To Use Courgettes

Courgettes are so versatile that they can be added to nearly every meal for an extra boost of texture. We have lots of courgette recipes on the site, but we're particularly fond of these courgette and turkey koftas from Eathos, which are super healthy and full of flavour. 

This orzo risotto recipe from Catherine Fulvio is a unique take on the classic Italian dish. The courgettes add a certain lightness and texture to the dish that we really enjoy. If you're looking for comfort food, this vegetarian courgette and basil lasagne from Darina Allen is full of flavour and packed with vegetables. Try it out here.

Darina Allen's courgette lasagne.
Darina Allen's courgette lasagne.