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Courgettes to the French, Zucchini to the Italians, and baby marrows to the Brits, New Zealanders call this versatile vegetable by any of its three names. But one rule is the same for all: a courgette is a cucurbit, a member of the squash family. It grows at a rate of knots, is best eaten when no longer than 15 cm, and produces more fruit than you can imagine! Available in a number of different guises, its skin may be deep green, yellow, or stripy greyish-green. Its large and fragile yellow flowers are also edible (the Italians dredge them in beer batter and shallow fry them in olive oil) and it seldom succumbs to disease. In my garden, a silver powdery mildew occasionally covers the leaves but as the plants are such vigorous growers, it does little to deter their progress.

A bed enriched with aged animal manure and generous quantities of compost is what is required for courgette plants, which also appreciate regular feeding with liquid manure, especially as the season progresses. In dry conditions, do not neglect regular watering, and mulch well to suppress weeds and lock in moisture. If you want to enjoy courgettes throughout the growing season, harvest the first half dozen or so fruit while they are still very small (5-10 cm in length) and regularly thereafter. Left to grow large, maturing marrow-sized courgettes will prevent the plant from producing more tasty young fruit.

For the courgette recipe here, ensure you also grow loads of new potatoes, a few rows of spinach, spring onions, and plenty of dill (this feathery herb enjoys the same growing conditions as courgettes so sow it alongside them in the same bed).

Tip: sow courgette seed throughout late spring and early summer to provide new plants ready to come on-stream as others tire.

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