I thought it best to start this post with a photo, as very few of you will have heard of this amazing vegetable. In fact, a photo gallery will tell the story better.
One lone seedling, nurtured and transplanted into a richly composted bed, even covered with a cage in case a bird got any ideas, watered deeply and mulched with some dried lucerne, and …
With its Italian names being tromboncino, or little trumpet, and zucchino rampicante, this is baby marrow’s out-of control relative, with even more productive bounty and myriad uses in the kitchen. The fruits are pickable from baby size, but remain crisp and tasty until they are about 40 cm long!
A bonus is the huge crop of squash blossoms, the fashionable darlings of the food world for the last few years. They can be sauteed and folded into omelettes and risotto’s, or stuffed and steamed or deep fried.
Cooking young pumpkin leaves and tendrils is a well-kept secret of old-timers in Southern Africa. This falls in the morogo/imifino category of traditional foods.
Try steaming these delicate bits with a few baby fruits attached and you will be spoilt for life! Combined with onion, potato, tomato, raw peanuts, or au naturel, you will never again want those expensive baby leaves that were flown in from goodness knows where..
More perks: going vertical is a space-saving bonus. And of course the funny factor as the tromboncino grow into all sorts of fairly rude shapes and squeeze themselves through the fence while growing a few centimetres every day. Kids fall in love with this wow factor instantly and they all want to try and grow one- which is exactly what they should be doing to connect them to where their nutrition is coming from.
Throughout this very rainy summer, I anxiously watched my only child grow and bear, and tried to snip off every leaf that showed signs of mildew. Luckily the pumpkin family have a wonderful habit of outgrowing pests, and I was able to layer a few shoots into new plants in pots to set out elsewhere and share.
A few fruits had to be left to mature into monsters in the hope of getting a crop of seeds. The seed cavity is only in the bulbous end and the rest is flesh. Yesterday at last I was able to smash a metre-long freak and extract those sought-after seeds- how very satisfying on more than one level!
One of my layered plants will be set out against another fence to try and extend the harvest a bit. Mutsa- if you’re reading this, you can relax and stop peering anxiously through the window to see if I have ‘the stuff’!
The others will go to market on Saturday and the seeds will be dried and packaged for next spring, and I am already greedily eyeing my swimming-pool fence as a likely spot..
Serve the fritters when they are hot and crunchy with some tzatziki
2 cups grated courgettes
1 large finely chopped, ripe tomato
1 small finely chopped red onion
1 tbsp chopped mint
3 tbsp of self-raising flour or more if your mix is too runny.
Salt & pepper
1. Mix the courgettes, tomatoes, onion and mint in a bowl. Add the eggs and stir the mixture until all the ingredients have combined.
2. Add enough flour to bind the mixture together (add more flour if the mixture is still runny). Season to taste.
3. Heat 1/2 cm of sunflower oil in a shallow frying pan until fairly hot.
4. Spoon dollops of the mixture into the oil and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden.
6. Drain on some kitchen roll or crumpled newspaper and serve hot with tzatziki.
Makes 18-20 fritters