I know that there is serious competition for the title of “Most Versatile Vegetable” and that most people will have their own idea as to which vegetable it is but I’m pinning my colours onto the versatile mini-marrow, organic courgettes.
It is often claimed that a courgette is a marrow that is harvested before it has grown to its full size. Whilst this is widely accepted I believe it is actually not quite correct and that the two things are slightly different in horticultural terms. That would mean that actually if you let courgettes get really big they do not become marrows, just really big courgettes.
My main concern, however, is with flavour and I prefer my organic courgettes to be about 6-8 inches in length and very fresh. I regularly get a few packed into my Riverford Organic Veg Box but usually have to top-up during the week at the local organic vegetable shop on Broadway Market in east London, where I live.
How do I cook them? Well, my favourite use for organic courgettes is as a kind of substitute pasta! First, peel the courgette and then, using a vegetable peeler, cut the courgette into fine strips, resembling tagliatelle or pappardelle, (wider) pasta. this is very useful for those who are trying to stick to a gluten-free diet and it’s also a very healthy pasta alternative for anyone who is watching their weight.
I usually cook them by gently frying them in butter, which is not as naughty as it might sound, but if you are really watching the calories you can simply steam or boil them for a few minutes, until they are soft. These courgette strips go very well with pasta style sauces or as an accompaniment to almost any meal.
Other ways to serve organic courgettes include simply slicing them and steaming, teamed up with some thinly sliced organic carrots would be my choice. Then of course, there is the classic ratatouille which makes excellent use of both courgettes and that other lovely vegetable, organic aubergines, or egg-plants as they are know in the USA. Incidentally, aubergines can also be used like courgettes as a substitute pasta although I’m told that it’s easier to do if you have a spiralizer, which I haven’t.
Another way to use courgettes is in a frittata, Spanish omelette or tortilla where I normally substitute sliced courgettes, skin on, instead of potatoes but you can have both if you like. They also go well in a quiche.
So there you have it, my suggestion for the most versatile vegetable, the organic courgette. Not only are they very versatile, they’re cheap, they cook quickly, they keep for a few days and they are readily available.