The Frugal Courgette

I think I mentioned this last year, but here in parts of Greece, they cook using the whole courgette (zucchini) plant – tender stems, leaves, the yellow flowers and of course, the courgettes themselves.

The stems and leaves are commonly known as kolokythokorfades (κολοκυφοκορφάδες) meaning courgette “tender end growth”. In fact, kolokyhi, the first part of the word, is usually translated as courgette, but is applied to a variety of squash plants. It seems (after a bit of internet research) that most squash plant leaves and stems can be eaten.

I’ve had kolokythokorfades in Mystra (Laconia, Peloponnese) as a boiled salad dressed with good olive oil and a generous squeeze of fresh lemon. I’ve also encountered it as the main ingredient in layered pitas in Thessaly (Central Greece). Although, I’ve been told its a speciality originating in Arcadia – an area between Laconia and Central Greece. On market day, I was fortunate to find a bunch of kolokythokorfades for sale next to a mound of little courgettes and their flowers. Notice the little proto courgettes forming.

It was serendipity since I’ve been meaning to experiment with these for quite some time and my own plants in the garden have given up the ghost – lack of attention due to travelling. A brilliant green risotto was the result.

Courgette Greens Risotto

  • 250 risotto rice
  • olive oil
  • 4-5 large courgette greens stems (kolokythokorfades)
  • 5-6 courgette flowers
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 20g sage butter (or 2 finely chopped sage leaves and 20g knob of butter)
  • 20g grated hard sharp cheese like kephalotyri

Clean and strip the more tender parts from the larger stems. Discard any tough large stems. Boil the greens for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a simmer in a pot.

Meanwhile, clean and remove the pistil in the middle. Shred the flowers and set aside.

Drain the boiled greens, rinse with cold water. Squeeze out any excess water and roughly chop. Add to a pan with warming olive oil on a medium low heat. Add rice and one ladle of hot stock. The leaves will break down and form a lovely green sauce while the stems and proto courgette bits will remain intact. Stir and add another ladle of stock (keeping it at a simmer while you make the risotto) when the rice has absorbed the last. Continue until the last ladleful when you add the shredded courgette flowers.

When the stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked, sprinkle on the grated cheese and add the knob of sage butter or the chopped sage leaves and a knob of butter. Stir in and turn off the heat.

Serve with a contrasting tomato salad.


    • You do not need to do anything with these courgette greens. They are equally good as compost. I know that courgette glut can be a problem – I’ve been there. I just find it interesting that traditional Greek cuisine makes us of them as they do with many greens, both cultivated and wild. Such a rich variety to be had.


  1. What a brilliant idea for a risotto. I wish they sold courgettes with flower heads in England, as they do in Italy too. But not only are they impossible to find, it’s hard to get decently small courgettes either. So often, they’re trainee marrows.


    • Thanks! I realise that many people outside of Greece may only get these greens if they grow their own, but it was of interest to me how the traditional culture uses everything about the plant. The courgette flowers are marvellous and it is a shame that they don’t sell them in British markets, but they really have to be fresh off the vine. I know what you mean by trainee marrows – I had a few in my allotment many years ago when we went on holiday and came home to fine monsters.

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  2. Looks delicious. Will try, since we’re full of courgettes. Have you tried stuffing the flowers? I do when I have a good few—either with rice or with a mixture of white cheese such as myzithra, and herbs. Then you braise them in a pan and maybe make an egg and lemon sauce. I have a recipe somewhere.


  3. In Sicily they sell these in season, where they are called (in dialect) ‘tenerumi’. Thanks for this recipe!


  4. I adore courgette, or zucchini as I call it. I make so many things with it. One of my favourites is actually a zucchini and walnut cake, no one ever guesses it is a zucchini cake. Spring has finally arrived in Australia, so zucchini flowers are not far away – hooray!


  5. What a truly fascinating post. I’ve grown zucchini for years and didn’t know you could eat the stems and greens. Your risotto looks amazing. My fading zucchini plants need a proper dish to end their season with and this will be the one.


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