In and out of the greenhouse, this is the year of the courgettes. That is, if you can keep them watered. Courgettes are always producing madly at this time of year but the seemingly endless heat is seeing mine pumping out fruits as fast as I can pick them. The watering really has been quite something, and I have had to head to the allotment every day in order to keep up with them, but it has been worth it just to see what they can do.
Courgettes are at their best when picked small – thank goodness – so the first trick is to pick them little and often: this can really help keep the sheer bulk of courgettes down but also makes the ones you are eating more appealing. Pick the flowers when fresh and young too, remove the central flowery parts and then tear up the rest to top a salad, or fry the whole thing in butter and finish off with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt. Picking the flowers has the added benefit that it slows courgette production just a little.
You may think that you will never want to see another courgette once your plant gives up, but once plants have run out of steam you might miss having this easy and trouble free veg to hand. This is the time to sow for autumn courgettes. I am doing this direct into the soil in the polytunnel, because Im pretty confident that they will germinate easily there (with plenty of water!), plus it means that they are in the perfect spot to keep producing when the weather does finally start to cool. It’s a lovely polytunnel bonus to have summer vegetables starting when everyone is turning to roots. A couple of plants will most probably do, but Ill sow four and see what comes up.
And so to cooking. If you are faced with a big bag of courgettes to get through, fritters are one of the easiest ways to use up bulk. The finished result will be very different depending on the stage at which you pick the courgettes: tastier and firmer if the courgettes are picked young, they can verge on the watery if picked full size. But we have a trick for that too. This is a recipe for courgette, feta and chilli fritters, but it is really worth experimenting with different spices to see what you like best.
4 small courgettes, or one and a half large ones
1 beaten egg
1 packet feta cheese
1 tablespoon flour
Half a teaspoon chilli flakes
Oil for frying
Top and tail the courgettes and grate them coarsely. More mature courgettes can be watery, so tip them into a teatowel, form into a ball in the centre and twist the ends of the teatowel so that they squeeze the ball together. Push and squeeze out the excess moisture and tip the grated courgette into a bowl. Add the egg and crumble in the feta and mix well, then add the flour and chilli flakes (add more chilli if you like it hot, less if you’re not so keen) and mix again. Heat a centimeter of oil in a frying pan until medium hot and lower in small spoonfuls of mixture – larger ones tend to stay soggy on the middle and we want a high crisp to soft ratio. When the edges have started to turn brown take a pallet knife and turn the over, crisping on the other side. When done lift them out and drain on kitchen roll. Eat them hot, with salad and a cooling seasoned yoghurt dip.