This is my first year of growing courgettes so I was thrilled to see the plants flourishing in the few short weeks after planting out, although the way their magnificent but prickly leaves overspill onto the paths through the patch is slightly daunting.
As I watered around the veg patch on Friday evening, my Zimbabwean neighbour (who has a wealth of experience in veg growing) came over for a chat. The common names of plants often differ between our countries and he was curious about the courgettes. Having established what the plant was, he told me that in his country the whole plant would be eaten: flowers, stems, leaves, fruit. Surely the leaves are too spiny for that? Not at all, apparently they soften in cooking. My plants, however, had been insufficiently watered (guilty as charged, although the weekend deluge will have rectified that) and the stems were too tough. He demonstrated by cutting a lower leaf close to the stem and peeling back the strings. The stalk was hollow and the flesh rigid; if it had been tender, he would have saved it from the compost heap and taken it home to be eaten, although the best leaves are further up the stem. So, lesson one: courgettes need lots of water.
There was further advice. "The plant is having to share the food between the fruit and the leaves. You do not need the leaves near the ground." Well, that made sense to me. So, knife in hand, I sliced where I was directed to and leaf after giant leaf came away. Soil was revealed (enough to sow some quick radishes or shaded spinach), air could circulate around the plants, sweetcorn was rediscovered and an achievement shared. Really, an enjoyable, companionable, useful and educational evening where another curve of the learning spiral was successfully negotiated.
This is the 'after' shot:
If I'd thought about it, I should have used the same angle to take the photo. Sorry, but I hope this will illustrate nicely the after-effects of the (rather drastic) chop. Does anyone else do this? And has it worked for you? I'd love to know!