Jane Price makes the most of an unexpected gift
I’ve never really been sure why people grow marrows, and just assumed that they are the result of courgettes not being harvested in time to be able to call them that. However, if you look up the definition of ‘marrow’ in good old Google you will find that the marrow is the mature version of the immature fruit called a courgette. It seems that the marrow was the intended vegetable and courgettes are just the baby version, harvested early, but I’m sure all those seasoned allotmenteers amongst you already knew that. The baby versions of anything are always more appealing and are usually sweeter – baby carrots, petite pois, Little Gem lettuce. The bigger versions are often woodier, not so juicy and not so sweet, and so different recipes are needed. Then there are the funny-shaped or slightly damaged vegetables that you don’t want to waste, but need to cut bits away to use them. Once you have finished laughing at them, these overlarge or less appealing vegetables are perfect to be used in pickles and chutneys.
I always have a large collection of empty jars in the jam cupboard – yes I have one! – and a bag or two of replacement lids, for all the jams, relishes and pickles that I like to make during late summer and autumn when I’m suddenly awash with apples, plums and damsons from the garden, and blackberries from the local hedgerows. If you have an allotment or large fruit tree, it makes good sense to do some swaps if you have a surplus of something and perhaps you will get something unexpected in return – like a great big marrow. This one came from my sister-in-law’s allotment in Lincolnshire and was presented to us when they came to visit recently. They really enjoy growing all kinds of fruits and vegetables and also make lots of preserves and if we are lucky they will bring us something they had spare.
A couple of years ago, I was given a bagful of courgettes from the same sister-in-law’s allotment. I didn’t quite know what to do with them so I looked up a recipe online for courgette relish, which I tweaked slightly and I now make it on a regular basis, even if I have to buy the courgettes. For that recipe, the courgettes are grated which makes a finer texture so is ideal for spreading in sandwiches.
For the marrow pickle the marrow isn’t grated, but is cut into tiny chunks, along with onions and peppers. The proportion of cider vinegar, sugar and vegetables doesn’t have to be exact, you just need to taste everything before putting it into the jars, and adjust the flavour for sweetness with more sugar, or add some chilli for a bit of bite – ideal for a packed lunch of cheese and crackers at the allotment!