Catching up to Gardener’s World this week, I see Monty Don clearing the spent courgettes from his veg plot to start his autumn planting. He, like most people, has had a dreary summer and had very few courgettes, but he’s done a lot better than me. I never even got as far as getting a plant, every single one I planted – each one carefully nurtured on the sunny bedroom window-sill – was eaten by slugs or mashed into the earth by the perpetual hard and heavy rain. He might not have had many fruits, but he had a wonderful crop of leaves and flowers that he was merrily chucking into the compost.
What a waste! Courgette leaves are delicious, with a strong, earthy flavour somewhere between spring greens and nettles. In North-Eastern Cuba (the only part with anything like a Caribbean cuisine) they’d have made a soup with those leaves, cooked green onions gently in a little coconut oil, then shredded all but the toughest, oldest leaves and thrown them in the pot with a bay leaf, some allspice and nutmeg, a little salt and coconut milk and simmered till the leaves were softly disintegrating.
A simpler soup, and one of my favourites, is made by just cooking thinly sliced red onions, garlic and shallot in olive oil until transparent, then the shredded leaves (again, leaving out only the oldest, toughest leaves) – you can add the tenderer stems, sliced or chopped too – until they wilt, then add stock and a little fresh thyme and simmer till soft. Or cook a stiffer mixture, add chopped tomatoes or a little passata and serve on pasta.
A more elaborate soup is sopa de guia, a Oaxacan dish that uses all of the plant, traditionally made in the rainy season and served with corn dumplings.
Corn, onion and garlic are simmered in stock for half an hour, then finely chopped courgette leaves, thinly sliced courgettes and any blossoms you can spare are added, salted to taste and simmered another half an hour.
There must be lots of recipes. Courgette leaves are too tasty to be consigned to the compost. I wish I had some in my garden – I wish I had anything in my garden. It’s been a disastrous year for everyone I know who grows vegetables and fruit and makes me glad I live in a time and a place where I can get what I need in the market. In other times, in other places, we would have starved this year.
The lovely picture of tasty leaves is not mine, I have none to photograph. A click on the pic takes you to its source.