Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cheap Food Factfile: Courgettes

Cheap Foodie Fact-files

Price per kg- £1.60

The courgette is a form of summer squash, in the same family as the marrow and pumpkin. While Great Britain, France, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands call it a courgette, it is known as the “zucchini” by the USA, Australia, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia. In South Africa, it is more commonly harvested as a baby vegetable, and called a “baby marrow”. The fruit and flowers are edible, but the leaves and stems are not. Like many other squash variants, courgettes (or a similar cultivar) was most likely to have been first grown in America. However, the traditional courgette that we know well and consume today was cultivated in Italy from around the 15th century.

Courgettes come in many varieties, but the main courgette purchased by consumers worldwide is 20cm and dark green in colour. Courgettes also come in patchy green, light green and yellow colours, and different shapes- including a circular “spaceship” looking variety, known as patty-pan, and circular globe courgettes. Popular varieties to grow in the UK include:

·         Black Beauty (a very productive cultivar producing dark green courgettes)
·         Golden Dawn (a cultivar that produces sweet bright yellow courgettes).

Health Benefits
Courgettes are low in calories, contain absolutely no fat, 80g counts towards one of your 5 a day fruit and vegetables, and  are a good source of vitamin C (particularly if consumed raw, or cooked lightly- vitamin C being a heat sensitive vitamin). Courgettes are also a good source of lutein, a type of carotene based vitamin that aids in eye health.

Nutritional Information (per 100g raw)
Calories- 18kcal
(of which sugars)- 2g
Protein- 1g
Fat- 0g
Vitamin C- 18mg (equivalent to 28% R.D.A)

The countries that consume the most courgettes are Mexico and Great Britain!

Interesting Courgette Facts
The smaller the courgette, the sweeter it is.

The courgette was voted in a large poll (in 2005) to be the UK’s tenth favourite vegetable
The longest courgette ever grown measured 7 ft 10 inches long, and the heaviest courgette ever recorded was grown in the UK, in Norfolk, and grew to a whopping 65kg!! Now that’s a lot of ratatouille!!

Ways we like them
In Mexico, the courgette is often cooked in stews, such as the popular beef and vegetable stew “caldo de res”, soups and in fillings for quesadillas/burritos. 

In Italy, courgettes are very popular, and often breaded or pan fried as side dishes/ appetisers.

In both Italy, France and Greece, the flowers are very popular and consumed in large quantities (particularly in south of France). Courgette flowers are often battered and deep fried, sometimes filled with ricotta cheese, or it is popular to stuff them with rice in Greece.

In France, courgettes are used for one of the nation’s most popular and well-known dishes “ratatouille”- a rustic country vegetable stew, usually incorporating courgettes, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and herbs.

In Turkey, grated courgette is the prime ingredient of a popular dish “mucver”, which is a sort of courgette pancake that is served with yoghurt.

In Greece, as well as the filled deep fried courgette  flowers mentioned earlier (which, by the way, is my favourite food in the entire world), courgettes are often hollowed out and baked with a mince/rice filling.

In Egypt, courgettes cooked in a garlicky herby tomato sauce are a popular side dish.

Courgettes can be consumed raw, in salads and dips, and can also be baked into bread/cakes/muffins. Courgettes, just like cucumbers, can also be pickled.

I personally absolutely LOVE courgettes. I fell in love with them further since I’ve been growing them the last couple of years- they are fantastically easy to grow and yield so much!  Although I must admit I have always adored them- my favourite food when I was three was fried courgettes with black pepper and grated cheese on top! Nowadays the ways I like them best is either roasted with plenty of seasoning and garlic, thinly sliced then barbequed/ griddled as a side dish or a topping for a pizza/tart, or they can be made into a fantastic chutney (my courgette, tomato and chilli chutney on the blog is my favourite preserve of all time).

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