I consider myself a keen novice gardener. Like many other food lovers, I’ve stumbled into it gently with a few plants here, a bed or two there. There have been some failures – I find it hard to restrain my brassicas to anything like useful size – but some surprising successes too; who knew that fresh potatoes tasted so different?
Courgettes, though, have got me just a little bit scared. Back in the spring I planted out five tiny shoots I’d raised from seed in the corners of two small raised beds.
Within weeks both plants were waist high and yielding a really impressive amount of courgettes. The potatoes came and went, the slugs got the lettuce, the cabbages bolted direct from seed into leathery senescence (and thence the compost heap) but the courgettes just kept on giving.
Thanks to the courgette plants, now large enough to be introduced socially, I was able to feel a moderate success as a gardener. I could do what gardeners dream of: walk out of the kitchen door and pick lunch rather than spend too much time, effort, money and space creating something less fulfilling than I could buy off the market.
The courgette must surely be the most astonishing, steroid-fuelled generator of biomass in existence. When I got back from a short holiday in July to find the rest of the veg finished and over, the courgettes, by this time terrifying vines as thick as your wrist, had spilled out of the beds and were spreading across the lawn. The supply of delicate flowers for frying and tiny finger-sized fruits for crunching raw showed no sign of drying up and now large, supermarket-sized, comedy phallic courgettes were developing too.
I hit the cookbooks, asked friends and cooked my way through all the suggestions from Nigel Slater but I’ve got to say, thanks to the bewildering bounty of these hyper-fecund triffids I’m getting short on creative ideas for using them up.
As we roll gently into autumn I can see the courgette plants now from my window. Each eight feet long, waist-height, resting on the patch of lawn I can no longer mow, their faintly threatening dark leaves lowering at me and there, around the base, the eerie fringe of yellowish fingers and disturbingly funereal flowers. They look frighteningly strong and show no signs whatever of dying off.
I’m beginning to worry this might never end and I’m starting to run out of interesting ways to cook them. Has anyone out there got any suggestions?