Courgettes are now cooked all year round, regardless of the season. However, I am of a certain age and I remember well when courgettes were eaten only in the hot season, from spring to late summer.
Maybe it’s for this reason, or because fresh courgettes are bright green and their flowers have the colour of the sun, that I always tend to associate the colours of spring to the ones of courgettes, and in particular of romanesche courgettes.
Courgettes, from the family of cucurbits, are native to Central America and southern Asia and only arrived in Europe in the 16th century. Their cultivation is widespread in Italy; in southern Lazio and in the Roman countryside the romanesca courgette is mainly cultivated, characterised by a beautiful light green colour and a grooved surface. The flavour of romanesche courgettes, although more intense, does not differ greatly from other qualities of courgettes but the consistency of the pulp is decidedly firmer, less watery. Like all cucurbits, they can reach large sizes, but to have the best quality they must not exceed fifteen centimetres.
In the fruit and vegetable markets, at the peak of the season, it is possible to find freshly picked courgettes, still with their flower attached, along with bunches of long and thin stemmed courgette flowers. The flowers attached to the courgette are female, the stemmed ones are male, and something that not everybody knows outside of Italy is that they can both be eaten.
They are extremely delicate and spoil quickly, but they have an unexpected and amazing taste.
Violetta has lived in London for seven years now, so the Roman courgettes and their wonderful flowers were for her, and for me, only a sweet memory. However, two years ago Violetta moved into a house with a beautiful large garden and a greenhouse, so one of her Italian friends of hers decided to give her the seeds of the Roman courgettes.
I must confess that Violetta is not exactly a test tube gardener, so the first year the seeds remained in their bag, ignored. Then came 2020 and the long lockdown. Thanks also to a spring of good weather, Violetta and Francesca decided to fix the garden and put the greenhouse back into operation, and so those courgette seeds finally met the earth.
In the space of a couple months, the plants had grown a lot and had begun to give flowers and fruits. So, until the end of September, Violetta and I cooked courgette creams, sautéed courgettes, grilled courgettes, quiche, risotto and pasta with courgettes and courgette flowers, fried courgette flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies or with ricotta and so on, everything that our imagination has been able to conceive.
Oh, what a happy summer it was, ask Francesca who loves courgettes flowers so much!