Reaping What We’ve Sown: CourgettesAugust 24th, 2020
This week’s tale begins back in May, when we first turned our hands to arable farming. With restaurants under lockdown and fresh veg in demand, our chefs turned gardeners – swapping kitchens for fields, spatulas for spades. Joining forces with the garden team, a land army of sorts, to sow crops in a 9-acre market garden that came to be known as ‘the field experiment’.
One warm summer and plenty of watering later, we are now reaping what we’ve sown.
Of all the seeds planted in the ground, there is one that thrived especially well: the unassuming courgette. This small member of the marrow family is quick to grow and generous in yield. We planted a few varieties from seed – Yellow, Laria, Pantheon (which resembles the type of courgette feasted on in Roman times) – all high in fibre and potassium.
A curious thing about courgettes: the ebb and flow of production is affected not simply by the weather, but by the company of bees. These hard-working pollinators are the real protagonists in this story.
Delicate courgette flowers need to be pollinated by bees in order for the fruit to grow. The market garden at Avalon Farm is a diverse ecosystem free from neonicotinoids, encouraging bees to thrive; and because bees aren’t partial to flying in the rain, dry spells allow them to get out to work. The fruits of their labour? A bumper crop of courgettes.
We are now harvesting up to 300kg of courgettes each week. Back in their kitchens, our chefs are holding experiments of their own; salads, soups, pickles, dishes cooked over flame. More varieties of squash will soon be ready as we head into Autumn and one of our favourite time of year: harvest.
Two Ways with Courgettes
“Courgettes often taste best when prepared to extremes; cooked over high heat or simply left raw.” Ben Champkin, Head Chef at The Botanical Rooms
1) Roasted over charcoal
Cut the courgettes lengthways, rub with a good quality olive oil (we use Babylonstoren) and salt. Grill in a pan or over a BBQ, cut side down, until dark in colour and slightly blistered. Once cooked, slice lengthways again and dress with lemon zest. Finish with garden mint and a few spoonfuls of fresh Westcombe ricotta.
2) Raw in pesto dressing
Peel thin strips of the courgette or slice thinly on a mandolin. Stack into a pile and slice through into very thin ribbons.. Make a basil pesto with fresh basil, a strong Cheddar, nuts (try cobnuts, which are abundance right now), garlic and very good olive oil. Dress the courgette slices in the pesto, season with black pepper and Dorset sea salt.
Try our courgettes for yourself – now available to purchase here with free next day delivery.