Vegetable marrow is classified as a summer
squash yet it is rather the poor relation of squashes. Most of the
edible flesh is water and at best it is a rather bland vegetable, with a
slightly sweet flavor. At worst, it is insipid and if cooked to a mush
(which isn't unheard of), it is completely tasteless. Marrows can be
stuffed, although it involves a lot of energy expended for very little
reward; but marrow cooked over a low heat in butter with no added water
brings out the best in it.
History : Marrows, like all the
summer and winter squashes, are native to America. Squashes were eaten
by native American-Indians, traditionally with corn and beans, and in an
Iroquois myth the three vegetables are represented as three inseparable
sisters. Although the early explorers would almost certainly have come
in contact with them, they were not brought back home, and vegetable
marrow was not known in England until the nineteenth century. Once
introduced, however, it quickly became very popular.
Buying and Storing : Buy vegetables
that have clear, unblemished flesh and avoid any with soft or brown
patches. vegetable marrows and spaghetti squashes will keep for several
months provided they are kept in a cool, dark place. Custard marrows
will keep up to a week.
Preparing : Wash the skin. For
sauteing or steaming, or if the skin is tough, peel it away. For braised
marrow, cut into chunks and discard the seeds and pith. For stuffing,
cut into thick slices or cut lengthways and discard the seeds and pith.
Cooking : Place chunks of marrow in a
heavy-based pan with a little butter, cover and cook until tender. It
can then be livened up with garlic, herbs or tomatoes. For stuffed
marrow, blanch first, stuff, then cover or wrap it in foil to cook.