There’s nothing bland about this incredible vegetable, descended from squashes first cultivated in Central America over 7000 years ago.
Low in fat and calories and nutritionally dense, courgettes are healthy, versatile and, when prepared correctly, absolutely delicious. Find out more about this fascinating vegetable, including why we should probably be calling it zucchini after all.
- Fun facts about courgettes
- Courgette nutrition
- How to store courgettes
- Can you freeze courgettes?
- How to prepare courgettes
- What can you make with courgettes?
- Courgettes are actually fruit, but their savoury taste means they’re classified as vegetables, similarly to cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.
- Pre-Columbian cultures were huge consumers of the squashes courgettes are descendent from. The plants formed part of the “three sisters” planting system, along with corn and beans.
- Early squash seeds were brought back to Europe by Spanish sailors and cultivated for centuries, although the cultivar known as zucchini originated near Milam, Italy as late as the 19th century.
- Italian immigrants brought the zucchini over to the US. It was then introduced to the UK in the 1960s.
- The words “courgette” and “zucchini” are both a diminutive of the word “marrow”. Courgette is derived from the French word, while zucchini is derived from the Italian. Marrows and courgettes are closely related and often confused, although they are two different cultivars.
Courgettes are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, potassium, carotenoids, magnesium and manganese. They also contain small amounts of zinc, iron and calcium.
They’re also rich in fibre and water, so contribute to healthy digestion.
Courgettes can sometimes contain naturally occurring toxins called cucurbitacins. While this only happens rarely, it’s worth being aware, as these toxins can cause severe stomach upsets and in rare cases can even kill. They can be recognised by their bitter taste, so any courgette that tastes bitter or smells unpleasant should be avoided.
Courgettes are easy to store and will last for a few days in the fridge. Do not wash, peel or cut them before storing, just keep them in the vegetable drawer. If you want to keep them for longer, they can be frozen. See below.
Like many other fruit and veg, courgettes can lose their flavour and texture if frozen raw. However, they can be successfully frozen after blanching. Simply wash them, cut them into your desired shapes, blanche them in boiling water for a minute, then quickly remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water for another minute. Drain and place on a tray lined with kitchen paper. Pat dry. Place on another tray to freeze to keep them from sticking together. Once frozen, they can be kept in the freezer for up to a year and used in stews, sauces, bakes, stir fries, etc.
There is no need to peel courgettes. Simply wash and dry them, cut off the ends and then chop them to the desired shape and cook them. Courgettes can be eaten raw, too, though that is less common.
Courgettes are incredibly versatile.
- They can be shredded and eaten raw in salads
- Courgettes can be spiralised and cooked briefly for a low calory, gluten free alternative to pasta
- They can be chargrilled or roasted with a variety of flavour profiles. A great addition to any vegetable tray bake or vegetable kebabs for your BBQ.
- Courgettes make great fritters. Try these courgette fritters (made with leeks or onion) and these courgette and new potato fritters.
- Courgette pasta is always popular. We have some good ideas here and here. You can also try adding them to a stir fries with noodles.
- They pair well with eggs, like in this wonderful baked egg dish or this summer frittata.
- They can be used as an alternative to carrots in vegetable cake recipes.
- Courgette flowers are edible and are often stuffed.
You can get even more inspiration by heading over to our growing collection of courgette recipes