What’s The Difference Between A Courgette And A Marrow? Variations on this Question Are Commonly Asked. Here’s The Real Answer To Your Courgette And Marrow Questions

What's the difference between a courgette and marrow?
What’s the difference between a courgette and marrow?

During summer and autumn I frequently see questions online and in the media asking “What’s The Difference Between A Courgette And Marrow?” Variations on the question abound on Google and include …

Are marrows and courgettes the same?

Is marrow and zucchini the same?

What is an overgrown courgette called?

Is baby marrow and zucchini the same thing?

Is an overgrown courgette a marrow?

At what size does a courgette become a marrow?

Many websites give contradictory answers and it’s clear that many have just repeated what they’ve read elsewhere without understanding plants or horticulture.

So here is a simple answer to these questions.

There is No Fundamental Difference Between Courgettes and Marrows

Courgettes and Marrows are both members of the same species. Both are Cucurbita pepo.

That’s like saying both you and I are both Homo sapiens. Or that both a Poodle and a Great Dane are dogs (Canis familiaris).

The difference is that they are different cultivars of the same species, in the same way that Great Danes and Poodles are both different breeds of dog (in this context breed, variety and cultivar mean approximately the same thing, though technically a variety is naturally bred and cultivar is selected by humans for specific characteristics).

Courgettes and Marrows are the same species but look different because they are different cultivars. Humans have selected them to exhibit different characteristics in the same way as we bred different breeds of dogs to do different jobs and they therefore look different.

Is Marrow And Zucchini The Same?

This is an interesting question because the answer is about language more than marrows or courgettes. Zucchini is an Italian word. I’m told it is the plural of zucchino, literally: a little gourd, from zucca gourd. But it has been borrowed by other languages e.g. American English and it seems to change its meaning depending who is using it.

One definition I read said, “the immature fruit of a vegetable marrow; a courgette.”. But as I’ve explained it can’t be both a marrow and a courgette unless it is being used as a collective noun, like we use dog to describe different types of dog.

So zucchini can mean whatever you want to to mean!

Is baby marrow and zucchini the same thing?

If you read the meaning of zucchini above, you’ll know that zucchini can mean any sort of Cucurbita pepo. So, based on that definition, it could be. It depends if you accept the definition.

Is an overgrown courgette a marrow?

No. A courgette is always a courgette and a marrow is always a marrow. They are just small, medium or large versions of specific cultivars.

Think of it like this. What does a Poodle puppy turn into? Is it an adult poodle or a Great Dane?  Clearly it’s a adult poodle. In the same way a courgette just become s a large courgette and a marrow just grows from small to larger. It doesn’t start as a courgette and become a marrow.

What is an overgrown courgette called?

If you think about my last answer, above, its clear that like a puppy poodle growing into an adult poodle a large courgette is still a courgette.

At what size does a courgette become a marrow?

It never becomes a marrow in the same way as a poodle doesn’t grow up to new a Great Dane or an Alsatian.

Botanically courgette are a fruit called a pepo, the swollen ovary of the courgette flower, with a hardened epicarp.

So back to the first question … What’s the difference between a courgette and marrow?

It’s about breeding. The difference is in the physical characteristics but both are the same species. Some cultivars are bred to be harvested small and are normally called courgettes. Those bred to produce fruit that is bigger when it is ready to harvest are called marrows. But they are different cultivars of the same species.
It’s a bit like how greyhounds are bred to run fast and bulldogs were bred to fight. Bulldogs are never going to run as fast as greyhounds. And courgettes are never going to be marrows. But they are both the same species, just selected to be good at different things.

That’s not to say they will not have similar characteristics, just that they will not one the same.

Courgettes are actually compact bush marrows grown exclusively for their immature fruits, which crop over a long period if harvested regularly. Leave plants unharvested and the fruits will swell to marrow size but the cropping window and overall yield is greatly reduced.

Royal Horticultural Society

When Should Courgettes Be Harvested?

Courgettes are harvested small, usually when they are just 3-5 inches long. But there is no hard and fast rule. Harvest when you need them. But remember that if you don’t harvest them the plant will slow down and produce fewer fruit. Commercially we preferred to harvest early rather than later as that meant a steady succession of new fruit would be produced. Harvest can start as soon as the fruit is produced, when that will be depends on sowing date, the weather and where you grow them.

Commercially I’ve grown courgettes in greenhouses and had really early crops. But be warned, the warmth stimulates a lot of leaf growth and, if you are not careful, you will soon have a jungle of leaves.  When this happens harvesting is much more difficult and many fruit get hidden. Leaf production can be controlled, to an extent, by reducing the temperature. That normally means increasing ventilation.

Outside cropping starts sometime in early summer. The exact date depends on your microclimate. Cropping can continue until the first frosts though the crop is likely to slow down as the days get shorter and the days and nights get colder.

To ensure a good succession of cropping I would often sow a second crop to start harvesting late summer to autumn. The younger plants were more vigorous and cropped heavier. Having said that, many people grow too many plants in the garden and get a glut of fruit. There are only so many courgettes you can eat!

When Should Marrows Be Harvested

Basically the answer is the same as courgettes except you wait until the fruit is bigger. Some varieties are bred to produce smaller marrows whilst others are bred to produce huge ones. Which you grow is up to you and what you want them for.  Where the fruit is left to get really big they mature and, if stored in a cool dark place, can be kept for months. Its quite possible to be eating your own marrows at Christmas.

When Did Courgettes First Get Grown Or Mentioned in UK?

Many sources claim the first courgettes were grown in the uk in the 60s and before that there were only baby marrows with courgettes nit being recognised.

However, Elizabeth David first mentioned courgettes in her book A Book of Mediterranean Food, which was published in 1950. In the book, she includes a recipe for Tian of Courgettes, which is a Provençal dish made with sliced courgettes, tomatoes, and onions, layered in a baking dish and baked until tender.

David’s mention of courgettes in A Book of Mediterranean Food was one of the earliest in English-language cookbooks. At the time, courgettes were not yet widely known in the UK, and David’s book helped to introduce them to a wider audience.

David went on to mention courgettes in many of her subsequent cookbooks, including French Country Cooking (1951), Summer Cooking (1955), and Italian Food (1954). She also wrote about courgettes in her articles for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and The Observer.

I have also seen mentions going back to the 1930s.

Join & Share

Join the Facebook Groups Here

To join the How to Dig For Victory Facebook group follow the link.

And here is the link to UK Garden Flowers, Trees, Shrubs & More

Please share this post with your gardening friends and neighbours.

Need a gardening book?

Just type the subject into the search box and let us work our magic for you.



Join the Facebook Groups Here

To join the How to Dig For Victory Facebook group follow the link.

And here is the link to UK Garden Flowers, Trees, Shrubs & More


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.