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A vegetable marrow, also sometimes called marrow vegetable or marrow squash, is a green, elongated, mild flavored fruit that resembles a zucchini. It may come in slightly different shapes and sizes such as oblong, oval or globular, and may grow anywhere from nine inches long to 18 inches (23 to 46 cm). Marrow vegetable has a smooth dark green skin or green striped skin that is edible. The fruit flesh is white or cream in color, and the flavor is generally bland and sweet. Vegetable marrows that over-ripen or that grow too large may become bitter however.
Marrow vegetables require a warm climate, a well-drained, rich soil, and some amount of shade for growing. The vegetable marrow seeds are usually planted in April, and the seedlings can be transferred to the prepared ground in May or June. The marrow creeper may be allowed to grow as a ground cover or may be trained up a frame or a wall.
Although grown the world over, these vegetables are actually indigenous to Central America and Mexico, and, along with beans and corn, were a staple crop of the Native Indians. The marrow squash belongs to the genus Cucurbita, which has four species, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita pepo. These vegetable marrow species can be grown all year round and, depending on whether they are harvested in summer or in winter, are grouped as summer squashes and winter squashes.
Although the term "vegetable marrow" is usually used to refer specifically to this green, tender vegetable, rarely the term may be used by some to refer to all summer squashes in general. Other summer squashes include zucchini, yellow crookneck squash and pattypan squash, and these are harvested when the fruit is still immature and tender. These marrow vegetables may be eaten raw, may be seasoned in salads, or may be baked, fried, stuffed, pickled or cooked in a variety of other ways. Winter squashes, which include butternut squash, acorn squash and Hubbard squash, are allowed to mature before they are harvested. They need to be cooked before they can be eaten.
Apart from the vegetable marrow fruit, the seeds, flowers and the green parts of the marrow squash creeper can be eaten. The seeds, if tender, are eaten directly or they may be ground to a paste first. Mature seeds can be dried and ground to a flour, which may then be used to make bread. The green parts and the marrow squash flowers can be cooked as vegetable greens. Squashes are available throughout the year and can be purchased at vegetable markets, grocery stores and other fresh vegetable outlets.
You should try to pick out the smaller zucchinis rather than going for the big ones. The smaller, darker ones are best, but even a smaller, lighter skinned zucchini will have a better flavor than a larger one, which will taste bland.
If you feel like growing them, one plant can provide you with tons of little marrows to use over several months. Sometimes I even end up having to pickle some, or chop them into chutney.
Most people don't know but you can also use them in cakes, like you would use carrots. They aren't as sweet, but they add an interesting texture to a cake and help to keep it moist. Plus, they are, of course, very healthy.
Marrow can be really delicious especially when stuffed. You can just hollow one out, fry up the innards with herbs and spices and then put it straight back in again, then bake it in the oven. Or, you can add bacon, cheese, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms or anything really to the mix.
If you are cooking vegetarian food you might try chopped pine nuts rather than bacon. It comes out looking very impressive, and tastes good, but is quite quick and easy to make. And if you want to make it look even more interesting, you can use different kinds and shapes of marrow for variety.