Zucchini squash or courgutte are the most popular among summer squashes in Americas and Europe. Like gourds, they belong to cucurbitaceous or cucurbita pepo family.
Summer squash are believed to be originated in Central America and Mexico. Different cultivars of summer squash are grown throughout the United States during the warm, frost free season. Almost all the members of the squash family feature tender skin and flesh, small edible seeds and high moisture content.
Like other members of the summer squash group, the zucchini plant has the bush habit rather than the vine spread of the winter squashes. Its fruits are ready for harvesting about 40-50 days after seed implantation.
Some popular varieties are:
- Golden zucchini features brilliant golden yellow skin that retains its color even after cooking.
Round variety are dense, heavy, and nearly seedless with smooth surface.
- Tatume, which are common in Mexico, have similar features of round variety but have large oval shape.
- Costata romanesco also known as cocozelle is long, narrow variety with slight bulge at the bottom end. It features pale raised ribs in mottled green skin. When solid and young, this squash is juicy and sweet.
- Middle-Eastern types are stocky, pale green, tapering ends with a thick dark green stem. They have smooth shiny skin and solid, crispy and flavorful flesh.
- Yellow crooknecks have thick warty skin with markedly curved neck. They are crunchy in texture with sweet delicate flavor.
Health benefits of zucchini (courgette)
- One of the very low calories vegetable that is used during weight reduction and cholesterol control programs. Zucchinis provide only 17 calories per 100 g. Contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Its peel is good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation and offers some protection against colon cancers.
- Courgette is relatively moderate source of folates, consists of 24 mcg or 6% of RDA per 100 g. Folates are important in cell division and DNA synthesis. When taken adequately before pregnancy, it can help prevent neural tube defects in the fetus.
- It is a very good source of potassium, an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte; helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates by countering effects of sodium.
- Fresh fruits are rich in vitamin A; provide about 200 IU per 100 g.
- Furthermore, zucchinis, especially golden skin variety are rich in flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body that play a role in aging and various disease process.
- Fresh fruit is good source of anti-oxidant vitamin-C. Provide about 17.9 mcg or 30% of RDA per 100g.
- In addition, they are also good in B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and potassium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids, helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
Selection and storage
Zucchinis are available all around the year, but they are at their best during late spring and summer seasons.
In the stores choose small to medium sized zucchini featuring shiny, bright green skin, firm and heavy in hand. The best size for zucchini is 6 to 8 inches long and 2 inches or less in diameter. Some big sized varieties with marrow are specially grown especially for stuffing. Minor superficial scratches and mild bruises are oftentimes seen on their surface but are perfectly fine.
Avoid overly large courgette with pitted skin or those with flabby or spongy texture. Also, avoid those with soft and wrinkled ends as they indicate old stock and state of de-hydration. Go for organically grown products to get rich flavor and nutrients content.
At home, place them in plastic bag and store inside the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator set with adequate moisture. They can be stored for up to 2-3 days.
Preparation and serving methods
Wash zucchini thoroughly in cold running water just before cooking. Sometimes the fruits may require light scrub at places where prickles or dirt attached firmly. Trim the neck and bases. Peeling of skin is not advised.
Zucchini blossoms are also edible delicacy. In general blossoms are picked up during morning hours when they are fresh and soft. To prepare, open up blossoms and carefully inspect for insects. Pull off any calyces attached firmly at the base.
Here are some serving tips:
- Fresh, tender zucchini eaten raw either in salad or as a dip.
- The pods can be used fried, baked, steamed, boiled or in stuffing.
- This vegetable mixes well with potatoes, carrots, asparagus, beans etc.
- It can be shred into bread or muffins.
Here are some of my healthy recipes that feature zucchini:
Zucchini (Cucumis pepo), raw with skin,
Nutrition value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
- Energy – 17 Kcal
- Carbohydrates – 3.11 g
- Protein – 1.21 g
- Total Fat – 0.32 g
- Cholesterol – 0 mg
- Dietary Fiber – 1 g
- Folates – 24 mcg
- Niacin – 0.451 mg
- Pantothenic acid – 0.204 mg
- Pyridoxine – 0.163 mg
- Riboflavin – 0.094 mg
- Thiamin – 0.045 mg
- Vitamin A – 200 IU
- Vitamin C – 17.9 mg
- Vitamin E – 0.12 mg
- Vitamin K – 4.3 mcg
- Sodium – 8 mg
- Potassium – 261 mg
- Calcium – 16 mg
- Iron – 0.37 mg
- Magnesium – 18 mg
- Manganese – 0.177 mg
- Phosphorus – 38 mg
- Selenium – 0.2 mcg
- Zinc – 0.32 mg
Source : www.nutrition-and-you.com