I swear I’ll go mad if anyone offers me any more of them. I can’t go to supper with friends or meet up with family without someone trying to offload them onto me. I’m taking about courgettes. And also rain-soaked beans (French, broad or runner) and soggy spinach – in fact all homegrown green things – but it’s mostly courgettes. I have had complete strangers knock on my door and try to throw them at me for free. I shrink back in horror and try to close the door, but they leave them on my doorstep. Instead of a nice bottle of wine or box of chocs, dinner guests now even bring me their courgettes in plastic bags. “Just thought you might like some lovely fresh veg from our garden…”
Aaagh! No I would not! My own garden is already overrun with the stuff. Of course, I partly blame my good friend Fergus Dowding of the MV magazine (our celebrated ‘King of Veg’) whose monthly articles of wisdom persuaded me to set up my own vegetable plot in the first place. I also blame the sunny spring followed by our appallingly wet summer – damp and depressing conditions for humans, but obviously wonderful for plant life. Everything’s growing. Thistles are blossoming like Triffids while 5 foot nettles spring out from behind hedges and attack passing children. The grass on our lawn may look nice and verdant, but it needs cutting every couple of days.
Moan, moan… Of course, I should be so lucky. I should thank the Powers That Be for soaking my summer holidays and then awarding me a consolation prize of a lifetime’s supply of green stuff. Who needs a barbeque on the beach when you can have free beans and peas by the ton? You may have had 30 degrees in sunny Spain, but I will be eating spinach till Christmas. Literally.
But it’s the humble courgette which has become the most prolific of these green invaders. I’ve got them coming out of my ears, my mouth and nearly everywhere else. I’ve tried them steamed in sections, boiled in batons, curried in quarters, flat fried, grilled, baked in the oven and pounded into zucchini soup. You can’t even freeze them successfully, so I use them as doorstops, paperweights and cricket bats. They float (just about) so I could sell them as biodegradable buoyancy aids. I’ve even thought about using them for treasure hunts or games as in ‘Hunt the Courgette’? Maybe… but given their current all too common availability, any incentive to win the game is removed. I’d rather play ‘Lose the Courgette”.
Poor things. I am launching a charity to help these piles of sad, unwanted courgettes: “Don’t be a Meanie – Adopt a Zucchini”. I’ll give them names to make them feel a bit better (Charlie, Camilla, Candice or Courtney). However, if I miss one, it becomes a vast marrow within seemingly only a few hours and will either need to be scooped out to make a lantern or thick sliced to make tablemats. I’m even thinking of painting some of them to try and pass them off to friends as sausages.
I am desperate to try and constructively use up all this bounteous harvest before it rots into a congealed biomass and becomes recycled as tractor fuel. French beans are small and narrow enough to be dried and used as ‘Pickup-Sticks’ or long toothpicks and I’m told that the silk smooth inner skin of broad bean pods is excellent for rubbing on dry skin and verrucas. Broad beans themselves could become fashionable jewellery items if dried and painted either as necklaces or ‘eco-earrings’. Raw runner beans might also become original bookmarks and conversation points. Your next mobile phone case may well be made from ‘pure, natural spinach leaves’. Not only is this extremely marketable and highly friendly to the environment, it can also be gently chewed (with or without a light balsamic dressing) if you chat for too long on the phone to your mum and get a bit peckish.
In the meantime, it’s back to my courgettes. Do you know? I was in the local supermarket today and there, on a shelf, were packs and packs of courgettes for sale – hundreds of them! Why have they done this? Why have Messrs. Morrisons and Waitrose ordered up even more commercial bulk of the things from farms as far away as Norfolk or Northampton? Don’t they know that I can supply the entire country just by myself from here in West Dorset? And you know the thing that’s even more puzzling to me? Why did I grow them in the first place? I don’t even really like them…