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In 1646 Englishman Edward Fisher published a book which came to be known as ‘The Marrow of Modern Divinity.’ It had absolutely nothing to do with the over-sized courgettes often seen expanding across allotments about this time of the year, but did cause a dispute amongst some churches in Scotland. Apparently it aimed to guide the reader safely between Antinomianism and Neonomianiasm. Well, he was just asking for trouble wasn’t he...?
Perhaps he should have just stuck with pointing out that the marrow is a member of the squash section of the cucumber family with an edible shiny skin that can be any shade of green. He could have informed his readers that there are a large amount of different species of squash and that the name seems to derive from the Massachusett Native American name “askutasquash”, which means “eaten raw”.
Or he could have offered such helpful tips as… when buying marrows, it’s usually best to choose the smallest one, firm to touch and heavy for its size, and that if you can fit them into your fridge, they are best kept refrigerated after purchase! (Although the fridge most probably hadn’t been invented in 1646!)
Thought to be native to South America, the marrow became popular in Britain during the Victorian period, when it began to be grown to giant sizes for competition. Those Victorians certainly knew how to enjoy themselves!
Although largely superseded by courgettes, their smaller relatives which were first marketed by Italians as mini-marrows (hence the alternative name zucchini), marrow continues to play a part in many tasty recipes even though they are mostly comprised of water and aren't that well-blessed nutritionally.
It is usually served baked, steamed (boiled if you’re really desperate) or sautéed with a main dish, occasionally combined with ginger to make jam and also included in chutneys and pickles. Marrows can be peeled, seeded and cubed for steaming, cut into thick rings ready for stuffing or halved lengthways and deseeded before being re-filled with a savoury selection.
Marrow is also a Marvel Comics character loosely associated with the X-Men. She is a mutant whose bones grow out of her skin and can be removed to provide her with potential knives and clubs as well as body armor. After a violence-filled youth you’ll be glad to hear that she did make good progress in controlling her powers and learning a moral code although, last we heard, she had fallen in with the paramilitary group Weapon X. I think it’s safe to say that Edward Fisher didn’t mention that either …
Recipe for Stuffed Marrow