20 Aug 2022

Healthy Living: Eat in season: Try courgettes and marrows

Healthy Living: Eat in season: Try courgettes and marrows

Courgettes are a source of a mineral called potassium. Potassium helps to keep our muscles working properly so we can move around

The courgette plant is producing abundantly at the moment. The delicate flavour, soft shell and creamy white flesh is a perfect addition to any summer meal.

Courgettes, or zucchini as the Italians call them, are low in calories and their skin is full of antioxidants, mainly astaxanthin, zeaxanthin, alpha- and beta-carotenes - thus help eye health and helps to save our skin from sun damage.

The slight bitter taste of courgette is due to its antioxidant; cucurbitacin, which is liver-protective, anti-inflammatory and fight yeast overgrowth.

Recent research has shown that the polysaccharides in courgette include an unusual amount of pectin that feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut.

A specially structured polysaccharide that often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan is a unique molecule that is linked in repeated animal studies to protection against diabetes and better regulation of insulin.

As it is written in Digby Law's Vegetable Book, courgettes are best eaten when no bigger than our finger, while the flesh is still tender and sweet and before they developed bitter seeds and taken on too much water to taste of anything. But because the plant is so productive, when it is in season it quickly swells up and become marrow.

If you can't find that small courgettes, try to get the smallest ones possible, for example from your farmers markets. If you are lucky, you can even get tiny ones with their flower attached to them. Those flowers are great stuffed with garlic scented goat's cheese and poached in bone broth!

Young firm courgettes may be spiralised with a special equipment from kitchen stores and served warmed through in place of any pasta for a nutritious low-calorie alternative. I like to chop and deseed the larger ones, and roast them with chopped red onions, peppers, garlic cloves – drizzled with olive oil and dried Italian herbs.

The marrow makes an excellent filo pastry filling with ricotta – sweet with honey, vanilla and grated lemon peel, kind of like a strudel, or savoury with garlic and dill – served with a side salad. I often prepare this old Hungarian recipe of a delicious vegetable stew - you can enjoy in the summer and winter, if you prep and freeze the marrow:

Marrow stew with spicy sausage

* 1 large marrow peeled, deseeded and grated finely with a food processor

* 2 red onions, finely chopped

* 3 cloves garlic, crushed

* Handful of fresh dill (or 1 heaped tbsp of dried)

* 1 pot of organic crème fraiche

* Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Sauté the onions with olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic, dill and marrow. Season well and let it release the juices under the lid with gentle simmering and cook for ½ hour.

Turn the heat off and stir in the crème fraiche. Serve with grilled all-meat sausage – I love Rigney’s farm grain free sausage from Curraghchase or a French Toulouse sausage. A spicy burger pattie is a good option also.

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