The sauce of all my solutions

We had long since reached "peak zucchini" and were being threatened with having our entire property overwhelmed by an avalanche of giant cucurbits. This vegetable disaster was averted by my friend, Nickee Charteris, who runs Port Larder, giving us her recipe for Brinjal, or "Ceylon Sauce" as she calls it.

Brinjal is a sweet and spicy Indian condiment which normally uses aubergine as a base, but you don’t get avalanches of aubergine in this climate. Nickee has cleverly adapted the recipe to use zucchini as a base instead. If you have not tasted her Ceylon sauce, I suggest you do as it is absolutely delicious (she’s at the Otago Farmers Market on Saturdays).

I naively thought I could save seeds from last year’s big black oversized zucchini, but have since found out that members of the cucurbit family are notoriously promiscuous. Instead of prolific sprawling plants with dark green fruit, I have plants with huge leaves and a seriously rambling pumpkin growth habit, with pale green to white fruit. These plants are currently scrambling over the fence I use to support peas and attempting to obliterate any trace of the garden paths, the leeks and the lettuces, and have been hacked back daily to prevent them smothering the precious red onions. I might go back to bought seed. I will save a wee few seeds though, and plant them away off in the final frontier of the garden where they have space to wreak havoc as they please, and satisfy my curiosity about what weird offspring this year’s Godzilla plant produces.

If you don’t have room to grow regular zucchini, I saw the other day a plant which had been trained up a pole. You can use a good strong stake and wind the plant up the pole as it grows. I would use stretchy ties (strips of old t shirt?) to tie it in place. Standing zucchini take up very little room and have easily visible fruit, so they are easy to pick before they get too large.

Brinjal zucchini chutney

This Brinjal chutney uses loads of zucchini which is great news for gardeners at a point of "peak zucchini".

1 large marrow/oversized zucchini

100g crushed garlic

4 tsp salt

100g minced ginger

1 cup oil

1 Tbsp chilli powder

¼ cup yellow mustard seeds

3 410g cans peeled tomatoes or 1.3kg fresh and peeled

2 Tbsp fenugreek seeds

2 Tbsp coriander seeds

¼ cup tamarind paste prepared

2 Tbsp cumin seeds

1 cup malt vinegar

1kg sugar


Peel, de-seed and dice marrow.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pot over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds until they begin popping.

Stir in the rest of the seeds, salt, chilli, garlic and ginger. Lower the heat and stir for 4 minutes, then add the marrow/zucchini and saute for 5 minutes.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes with juice, tamarind paste, vinegar and sugar.

Simmer mixture, uncovered for 1 and a-half hours, stirring occasionally. The oil should rise to the top after an hour and further cooking reduces the volume to make a medium-thick chutney.

Bottle the chutney in hot sterilised jars with sterilised screw on lids.

Note: You can use processed garlic, ginger and tamarind (available from Asian and Indian food stores) to save time. Or to prepare tamarind, take 100g off a block, break it up and soak in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Push it through a sieve. Measure out the quarter of a cup you need, and freeze the rest for next time.

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