Zucchini is a summer squash. Also called a courgette in New Zealand, its scientific name is Cucurbita pepo. Zucchini originates in the Americas, though most people associate it with European dishes. It was introduced to Europe in the late 1900s and quickly became quite the vogue ingredient in French and Italian dishes. It is cucumber shaped and can be greenish yellow to a deeper green in color. Even though most people consider it a vegetable, like tomatoes, squash is actually a fruit.
Common garden varieties include Black Zucchini, Black Beauty, Cocozelle and Vegetable Marrow White Bush. Zucchini thrives in a soil with a ph of 5.8-6.8 that is high in fertile organic content. Unlike its sprawling cousin the pumpkin, it grows in a tight bushy vine.
Summer squash naturally likes warm soil of at least 70 degrees and is highly susceptible to frost. Therefore make sure the last frost has come and gone before planting the seeds in mounds of loose soil. If you plant seeds, put 3-4 in each hill and space them 3-4 feet apart. When the plants get to be about 3 inches high, thin them to two per hill. You can begin the seeds indoors then transplant them in the garden once warm weather comes.
Nutritional Content of Zucchini
One plant, or 125 grams of zucchini has –
|Amount Per Serving
|Vitamin C (11 mg)
|Carbohydrates (3.6 g)
Zucchini Health Benefits
Zucchini is high in Vitamin C and lutein, so it is excellent for the eyes and helps to reduce bruising. It is very low in calories but does have some fiber and protein. That makes it a good “diet” food and can help keep the colon healthy. Its levels of Vitamin A, folate and potassium make it heart healthy as well.
Zucchini contains good amounts of folate, potassium, and vitamin A, all of which have been linked with cancer prevention. Some research has been done that shows eating zucchini may assist in lowering BHP levels in men, a factor in maintaining a healthy prostrate.
Ways to prepare Zucchini
Most zucchini are picked in an immature state of under 8 inches long. They can grow up to 3 feet long, but are then too fibrous and tough for consumption. Discard any that appear bruised or have broken skin. Any breaks in the skin will lead it to rot very quickly.
This squash can be sliced raw. Many people prefer to slice away the outer skin or rind and shred it into salads. But most of the lutein is located in the skin.
It is also quite tasty cooked. It can be found in dishes such as ratatouille and even in breads and muffins. Chop it into stews and spaghetti dishes or add it as a topping on pizza. Sautéed in olive oil and sesame seeds makes a tasty side dish.
Store them unwashed in a zip locked bag in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. Then, remove them and wash their skins gently. Chop off both ends, then slice in medallions or strips.
If you wish to freeze your zucchini, slice it first, then blanch it a few minutes first. That way, the insides will remain soft.
Finely grated zucchini is a wonderful way to make quick breads moist and a good way to sneak “veggies” into the family’s diet. Zucchini seeds are delicious when baked. It can also be grated into dips and over salads.
Additional Zucchini Resources
Read more about the health benefits and nutritional values of zucchini.