Courgettes are one of my very favourite allotment crops. When the weather conditions are right they grow like crazy and they’re very versatile in the kitchen, too. I’m sure everyone who’s grown courgettes will be familiar with the phenomenon of turning your back on a not-quite-ready fruit or two for a couple of days, only to find that you’ve now got a decent crop of marrows. I certainly am; last year I even discovered one foot-long specimen lurking beneath a couple of leaves that I hadn’t checked under for a week or so.
But what I wasn’t expecting was a courgette that turned into… well, this:
This one started life as a Courgette Tondo di Piacenza which (as you can see from the pic on the Mr Fothergill’s site via that link) is a round, dark green variety. I grew three Tondo di Piacenza plants last year, alongside nine others of different types, and the yield across the dozen plants was extremely good. So good that when one of the TdPs, towards the end of the season, produced a fruit that was rapidly swelling through crown-green-wood towards regulation F.A. football size, I decided to leave it on the plant, if only to stop that particular one from producing. When I cleared the patch at the end of the season, I picked my still-green, giant courgette and stuck it on the veg rack in the kitchen.
Three months later, it had matured and cured to the rather fetching shade of mottled orange that you see above. Last night (with a tomato and pepper stew with baked eggs due to go into the oven) I was curious enough to wonder what it was like inside…
That’s definitely a pumpkin, or a squash of some kind. Of course, it’s not exactly a shocking development, as courgettes, marrows, squash and pumpkins are all members of the cucurbita (gourd) family. What was a surprise, and a very pleasant one, was just how tasty it was when oven-roasted in a little olive oil with plenty of seasoning. I’ve tried roasted or baked pumpkin and marrow before now and found them a bit bland – although of course that’s most likely down to the supermarket varieties I was cooking – but my out-sized Tondo di Piacenza was very good indeed: quite sweet with a delicious, nutty flavour and very more-ish. No photo, I’m afraid. Jo and I scoffed the lot before I could think to take one.
I’ll definitely be growing the Tondo again this year and I think when the season comes to an end I’ll try to keep one fruit per plant and let them grow to football-size. They clearly store well and they definitely taste good. What’s not to like?
Edit, 16:00 hrs Via this Tweet from South Africa, a likely i.d. for the mystery squash:
@nftallotment Our name is Gem Squash, it's huge! #allotment
— Ntabamhlophe (@VHS2DVDza) January 7, 2016
And via a serendipitous glance at my Twitter feed just now, a potential a.k.a. (‘Italian Stripe’) via the ebfarm.com Pumpkin ID chart (pdf link). You’ve got to love social media sometimes.