Tag Archives: zucchini

A very German botanical garden

When I was in Münster at the weekend with Eldest Daughter, we went to visit the university’s botanical gardens. In my defence, I should state that this was, in fact not the cruel act of a heartless parent… dragging a reluctant teenager around the most boring sightseeing available.  No, Eldest Daughter actually wanted to see the botanical gardens. Of her own free will. Really.

You see, as of October, she will be studying biosciences there and her course will involve her making the acquaintance of plant life for the first time.

Like most teenagers, Eldest Daughter’s knowledge of plants to date has been pretty much limited to a life-long mission to avoid broccoli or sprouts. So the Münster University Botanical Gardens will have its work cut out to fill in all the gaps.

The entire park is laid out like a massive pop-up botanical textbook. The plants are lovingly labelled and huge notices provide more information than you could ever wish to know.

Parts of the gardens focus on particular families of plants and particular habitats….such as the moorland section or the sand dunes. These areas are actually laid out to look like natural heathland or scrubland. There are no tidy flowerbeds, just swathes of moor, with heathers and sedges… or rolling sand dunes with tufts of scrubby grass or spiky plants clinging to the sheltered side of each hillock.

There are also swamps…

…meadows…

…and wooded streams.. to name but a few.

Then there is the medical section. This includes extensive information on the medicinal uses of plants – grouped according to the ailments which they cure… here, for instance, an exhibition of plants used to cure sex-specific diseases.

Each plant is carefully labelled, not just with its name and basic botanical data, but also a set of symbols outlining how it is used. I can see that students will never again need to visit a doctor or pharmacy… they can just pop down to the botanical gardens and find out which flowers or leaves to steep into a healing potion!

I was very excited to see that courgettes (of which I still have several billion growing in my garden) have significant uses in the cure of ailments relating to the prostate.

I shall make a note to renew my efforts at offloading them on my elderly male neighbours. Citizens of Meerbusch…I come to heal your prostates…

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Filed under About Germany, food, german education, Life in Germany

Courgettes by stealth

We have reached that phase of the Summer that my entire family dreads. It’s the time of the courgette-glut. (If you’re American… that’s zucchini). Every meal contains courgette in some form or other. Stuffed, baked, fried, frittered… and of course by now, none of us can bear to look at another one!

As a keen amateur vegetable gardener, of course I planted far too many of the things. And while we were on holiday, they grew and grew. English courgettes eventually turn into marrows. German courgettes turn into zeppelins. I’ve tried giving them away… but by now, the neighbours disappear into their houses when they see me approaching and slam the door. I thought about leaving courgettes on their doorsteps anyway… but I suspect they’d be returned, along with their own spare courgettes.

The only answer was to be creative about courgette recipes. To find something that everyone would eat and not even dream there could be courgette in it.

Dearest readers… I bring you, the courgette chocolate brownie!

First, mix half a cup of vegetable oil with one and a half cups of sugar and two teaspoons of vanilla.

Fold in two cups of flour, baking powder, a teaspoon of salt and half a cup of cocoa powder (unsweetened).

Once it’s mixed, add two cups of grated courgette… yes really! The moisture in the courgette makes your fairly dryish mixture into a gloopy chocolatey batter.

At this stage you might also want to add any extras… raisins, sultanas, walnuts etc. are all good…

Stick the whole lot into a lined, greased baking pan and bake at 180°c for about half an hour, or until the top is firm and slightly springy.

As a topping, I put cubes of white chocolate on top while it was still hot, then spread the melted chocolate around with a spoon – it makes less washing up than faffing around with a bain marie…

The result…. delicious moist chocolate (courgette) brownies, which nobody will even believe contains courgette!

I wonder whether I should take some round to the neighbours….

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Filed under food, Life in Germany