Saturday, July 14, 2007

In Defence of Marrows

A post by Carol of May Dreams Gardens made me laugh the other day. She was bemoaning the fact that she'd forgotten to check her zucchini (courgettes to the British - not to mention the French) and they'd exploded into growth overnight. I grew up having no idea they could be eaten small! In fifties and sixties England they were always left to get huge before we harvested, and for us they were called marrows. I must have been in my late teens before I came across these suspiciously foreign-looking things called courgettes that they ate in France. And it was a long time afterwards that it clicked that they weren't a "new" vegetable, but nothing but baby marrows. I still have a cookbook which I bought in about 1971 when I went to university. It's called The Robert Carrier Cookbook and is a book I still use regularly - his recipes always seem to work, even when it's me doing the cooking. He says : Courgettes, once so hard to come by in Britain in any but the most exotic food departments of the major London stores, are now available in regular supply in shops throughout the country. I suspect that time they were still pretty trendy, however. I doubt you would have found them at our local Co-op.

But however much I like courgettes (especially raw and grated with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice), now when I grow them I always leave some to get big. I love cooking marrows. If you type baked marrow into Google you'll come up with loads of recipes, both vegetarian and otherwise. For all of them you need to cook (or part-cook) the marrow first, and then add the stuffing or topping. Cut off the two ends and then either cut it in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds to make two canoe shaped containers for the filling, or cut it in thick rings and again scoop out the seeds to leave a hole for the filling. Bake it smeared with olive oil and covered in a medium oven (180°C, 350°F or Gas 4) for about thirty to forty minutes - you need the flesh to have become soft but not soggy.

While it's baking, make the filling. One of my favourites is button mushrooms, brown rice and cheese - cook the rice, and at the same time fry the mushrooms in half oil half butter, covered so that the juices don't evaporate. When the rice is cooked, add it to the mushroom pan and reheat uncovered until the juices have been almost absorbed or evaporated. At that point, add the cheese and let it melt into the mixture. What cheese you use will depend on your taste - I like Gorgonzola while my son won't touch it unless I've used processed cheese slices. Fill the marrow halves with it and serve.

Or try marrow peeled and cut into cubes, then baked for 40-50 minutes together with skinned, sliced tomatoes, chopped onion and thinly sliced celery. Smear a casserole dish with olive oil or butter,and put in alternate layers of the vegetables. Add a little salt, sugar and pepper to each layer. Finish with a layer of marrow and a few chunks of butter or a bit of olive oil - enough to soak through the layers, but don't exaggerate. Cover tightly and bake in a medium oven as above for forty or fifty minutes.

Of course, any marrow recipe can be used with courgettes too. And even I would admit that if for the rest of my life I could only eat either cougettes or marrows, I'd choose courgettes. But it's fun to grow them - if you're trying to get your kids involved in gardening, they'll have fun seeing how big they can get. And then, and what's wrong with having something slightly different on the table occasionally?


I'm not growing marrows on the balcony this year, so thanks to citricut for making the photo available under Creative Commons Licence on flickr.

5 comments:

Carol said...

I'll have to look up marrows... are they just big zucchini?

And when I was growing up, it seemed to me that most of our zucchini got pretty big before we picked it. Maybe that was so there would be enough to share amongst 5 kids?

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Sue Swift said...

Yes, just let them keep growing. I suspect the "enough to feed a family of 5" motive was why marrows used to be so popular in Britain in the fifties. Though as the comments on your post show, pick them early and they just keep coming, so you must end up with the same quantity of food anyway ...

OldRoses said...

I've read a lot of Brit Lit and always wondered what a "marrow" is. Thanks for clearing that up!

John Curtin said...

Sue - did you ever grow them that big on the balcony?!

Sue Swift said...

That's next year's project, John! So far, I've never really grown many vegetables on the balcony - I've been concentrating on flowers and foliage. I had thought about it for this year, but thinking I was going away decided to put it off a year. Next year though the back balcony will be a kitchen garden. We'll see what happens ...

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