Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

Pickled Loofahs and Square Courgettes anyone?

It is time to start thinking about the Cucurbita family.
This is the group of plants that originated from Mexico about 10,000 years ago and include courgettes, cucumbers, squashes,  melons and the loofah!

Harvesting loofahs

Harvesting loofahs

Most are annuals and all are vines, with male and female flowers on a single plant. The earliest record of human use of edible cucurbits was 9000 years ago in Mexico. They have had a rich, interesting, and sometimes confusing journey since entering Europe.

The humble courgette arrived in Italy in the 19th century where it became generally known as ‘Zucca’, the French then renamed it as ‘Courge’. Here in the UK, it was considered an exotic vegetable until the mid-seventies when Marks and Spencer bought the first batch from a UK farmer called Peter Barfoot, who was, and still is a vegetable visionary (that is what I want to be when I grow up).

The simple cucumber was cultivated about 4000 years ago in India, and was introduced to English palates in the 14th century when it was rejected by the discerning upper classes. It had to wait a further 300 years before being accepted into kitchens.

Melons probably came from Africa, but there is some research that suggests ancient Persia was the original source. The first recorded plantings of melons in England was back in the sixteenth century.

Interestingly I always presumed that the high water content of these fruit/vegetables meant that there were not many nutrients. Actually a single courgette contains more potassium that a banana and cucumbers in particular are considered the perfect hangover cure as the skin is packed with anti-oxidants.

The Japanese have recently given a new meaning to the term ’twisting my melon man’ by going all Ikea and creating a cube shaped watermelon for easy storage. They achieved this by growing it in a clear glass box. Now these square watermelons are worth double the price of the round ones in the Japanese markets.

image

Here in the UK, we are still receiving new varieties; the ‘Mouse’ melon has become known as a cucamelon and is sought after by chefs for their menus.

Sadly, at Darsham we will not be ordering a square glass box just yet….but it has started the brain fizz….has anyone tried a square courgette? I bet that is being trialled as I type. Instead, we will be growing Lebanese courgettes, climbing yellow courgettes, Russian cucumbers, watermelons, cucamelons, French blue winter squashes and gherkins.

Just looking...

Just looking…

 

limegarden@sky.com • 27th March 2016


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