Zucchini everywhere

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Jul 17, 2019 - 01:48 PM

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Zucchini is a summertime staple, a vegetable that grows in abundance in local gardens and finds its way to the doorsteps of neighbors everywhere. Every zucchini gardener wonders what to do with all of those squash.

Oddly, one century ago hardly anyone grew zucchini.

Inhabitants of Central and South America have been eating an ancestor of the zucchini (cucurbits) for over 7,000 years. The zucchini, a fast-growing summer squash we enjoy today, originates in Italy. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Italians taught the world just how good and useful in the culinary world a zucchini could be.

The squash didn’t make their way to the American tables until Italian immigrants brought them here in the 1920s. Until then zucchini was virtually unknown in American kitchens. It is thought that California was the first place zucchini was cultivated.

Zucchini, also known as courgette, is harvested immature while its rind is still tender and edible. Its skin can be dark green, light green, orange or deep yellow. Botanically zucchini is a fruit, but is treated as a vegetable.

In this country zucchini is normally harvested when it is between 5 and 8 inches long, just two to seven days after flowering. The vines can produce significant yield which sometimes can be overwhelming. Gardeners are usually eager to share their bounty. Flowers of zucchini are considered a delicatessen; in Japan the blooms are stuffed, battered and deep fried as a tempura dish.

Whether you grow your own, purchase from farmers’ market, corner store, or receive some from a friend, use only those that are firm to the touch and have smooth or slightly prickly blemish-free skin. Zucchini is eaten with the skin on; there is no need for a peeler. To keep best, store zucchini in a plastic bag, tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. It should be washed only when ready for consumption.

Zucchini can be served raw, but cooked correctly it can be made into a world of mouth-watering dishes. If you plan to cook zucchini with some form of heat, toss the pieces in oil (olive oil, butter or vegetable oil) before you begin. Three methods of cooking zucchini are: on the stove when you need it quickly, in the oven when you want to make a savory stand-alone side or in delicious bread, or on the grill for an easy side for a backyard cookout. Any way you decide to cook zucchini, it’s still a low-calorie nutritious vegetable.

The word zucchini comes from the Italian zucchino, meaning a small squash. The term squash comes from the Indian “skutasquaash,” meaning “green thing eaten green.”

Some facts on zucchini

An average zucchini has 25 calories compared to one baked potato with 130 calories. The world’s largest zucchini on record was 69½ inches long and weighed 65 pounds. A zucchini has more potassium than a banana. A soap bar called Fresh Zucchini Flower Big Bar Goat’s Milk Soap is made with real zucchini. Very versatile indeed. 

Note: Information on the zucchini was taken from “Zucchini’s Origin,” “Zucchini Origin—History of Zucchini,” Is Zucchini a Squash” and “Zucchini History.”