Courgettes, aka zucchinis, abound in summer allotments! Filled with nutrients, a good source of fibre, and an opportunity for creativity in the kitchen, here’s everything you need to know about this green squash.

1. Summer delight

It is about this time of year that many keen gardeners will start to find themselves with more courgettes on their hands than they know what to do with.

Technically a fruit, courgette (aka zucchini) originated from South America and is a staple of Mediterranean cooking.

One plant can produce several fruit and, according to the Royal Horticultural Society, during good weather may produce three or four fruits a week.

By late summer, they are usually abundant in shops, allotments and gardens.

2. Toxic squash syndrome

Did you know there's a dark side to courgette? In 2020, they became headline news — and not for a good reason.

As people began growing and eating their own veg to beat the lockdown blues, there were reports of food poisoning cases from homegrown so-called “killer courgettes”.

The problem, it was reported, was due to natural chemicals called cucurbitacins.

These not only protect the plants from being attacked by insects, but in concentrated amounts are also toxic to humans.

If a courgette tastes bitter — a sign of cucurbitacins — it is advised not to eat it and to seek medical help if needed.

3. Safe in the supermarket

But don’t let tales of toxic squash syndrome put you off.

Produce destined for the supermarket shelves has been grown from commercial seeds that have been produced to be safe.

According to reports, potential problems from cucurbitacins are more likely to occur when there has been cross-pollination from other plants that also have cucurbitacins.

Saved seeds (seeds kept from last year’s plants) or plants that have self-seeded, perhaps having blown in from a nearby garden or allotment, are also considered to be a higher risk.

4. All those nutrients

Nutritionally, courgettes are a good source of manganese and potassium, vitamins B6 and C, lutein and zeaxanthin — the latter two being protective against age-related macular degeneration in the eyes.

The courgette’s thin, dark skin is also a source of soluble fibre which is beneficial for gut health.

5. Versatile in cooking

As an ingredient they are highly versatile, with a role to play in cakes, a roasted vegetable medley or a salad.

Some recipes to try:

Because they are also about 95% water, they can also be spiralised into ‘courgetti’ or ribboned as an alternative to pasta, for anyone trying to reduce the number of starchy carbs in their diet.

If you are growing your own, for something a little different, you can also eat the flowers — with or without baby courgettes attached.

If you have the patience, courgette flowers can be stuffed before being fried or baked, or simply sprinkled as a garnish.

Enjoyed this article?

Here's everything you need to know about beetroot

For articles and recipes subscribe to Optimum Nutrition

Discover our courses in nutrition