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All About Zucchini
All About Zucchini

Zucchini is a summer squash, much like pumpkins and eggplant. Zucchini are similar to cucumbers in appearance, but have a very different texture. They range from light green to very dark green (almost black) in color and can even have stripes. Zucchini can grow to be over a foot, but are harvested at different sizes around the world. In the United States, zucchini is typically harvested when it is between 5 and 8 inches long (approximately 2 to 7 days after flowering), but in South Africa the fruit is harvested when it is still very small (about the size of your finger) and is called 'baby marrows'.

Squash is separated into two categories: summer squash and winter squash. Summer squash has a high water content and thin edible skin. Zucchini is the most popular of summer squashes and is "in season" from May until August, but can be found in the grocery store all year long. Smaller, younger zucchini have more flavor, so pick one that is firm with a glossy, unblemished skin. You can store your zucchini for up to five days in the refrigerator.

Fruit or Vegetable?
Although zucchini is typically treated as a vegetable, when it comes to culinary situations, it is technically a fruit. The zucchini itself is actually the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.  Zucchini was first introduced in the Americas, but the zucchini that we know and love today was developed in Italy many generations after they were originally introduced. Unlike many other fruits, zucchini does not have a large amount of natural sugar, but it does have a high water content and is low in calories. It is also a good source of folic acid, potassium, and vitamins A and C.

Just like every other fruit, there are many varieties of zucchini ranging in color, size, length of time to produce and texture. White squash, or summer squash, is sometimes seen as a mutation of the zucchini and is even found on the same plant as its' green relatives. Originally, zucchini was only grown in its traditional long cylindrical version, but newer varieties have surfaced more recently to meet the ever growing demand of cooks near and far. Golden zucchini and globe zucchini are the newest varieties of zucchini that have been grown for commercial purposes. Golden zucchini is the same shape as traditional green zucchini, but has a lighter color and a lighter flavor. Globe zucchini, on the other hand, is green in color but is spherical, more similar to a pumpkin. These globe zucchinis are about 3 inches in diameter on average and are perfect for stuffing.

Zucchini Flowers
Zucchini flowers are one of a select few edible flowers. The flowers, also called courgette flowers, can be eaten raw or cooked. I typically think of myself as someone who has tried plenty of exotic or out of the ordinary foods, but zucchini flowers are something I had never even thought of eating. This recipe from The Picky Eater for Baked Zucchini Flowers with a Creamy Ricotta Filling definitely changes my mind about that. I'll be gathering a few flowers from the garden right after I finish writing this!  

Zucchini is a vegetable that is delicious by itself but I can also be used for a variety of meals anywhere from breakfast to dessert after dinner. Because its flavor isn't exceptionally strong, zucchini can be added or baked into traditional recipes to give it a hint of flavor and some added health benefits. Chilled zucchini soup during the summer is a refreshing way to try something new.   

How to Cook it
Because its currently summer, I love to throw some zukes on the grill. A little butter or olive oil and seasoning are all you need. If grilling isn't your forte, or maybe its winter, you can cook your zucchini a few other ways. Zucchini can be baked in the oven with other vegetables or by itself with olive oil and spices. It can also be sautéed on the stove to make a delicious vegetable side for any meal. Deep fried zucchini fritters are a delicious snack and are slightly healthier than French fries. 

The Best Seasonings for Zucchini
When you think of seasoning fruits and vegetables, typically salt and pepper come to mind instantly, but there are a few other ways to spice up your zucchini and they are even salt free. Basil and oregano go incredibly well with zucchini and so do some of our seasoning blends. Our Roasted Garlic Pepper is fantastic for garlic lovers and our Habanero Garlic Pepper is made especially for cooks who are always looking for an added kick.

Any way you slice it, zucchini is a great addition to so many dishes and even great on it's own with a few seasonings. The next time you see them at a roadside stand or farmers market make sure to pick up a few and try out a healthy new recipe. It might surprise you how versatile zucchini can be!

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette
Summer Squash and Rice Casserole
Cumin Seasoned Grilled Zucchini
Grilled Vegetable Sandwich
Cheese Ravioli and Veggie Stir Fry
Grilled Vegetable Burrito

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