Zucchini is a familiar type of squash that is most abundant in summer. It is a member of the gourd family and is always harvested before ripening. Mild in taste and texture, the uses are endless, from eating fresh to grilling to grating and baking in breads.
The Mediterranean dish ratatouille is a traditional zucchini-based recipe that is familiar around the world. As a native American plant, zucchini is historically referred to as part of the “three sisters,” or triumvirate, that also includes corn and beans.
Zucchinis are long or rounded. They range in color from mottled greens to the less-common yellows. Hybrids that are varied in hues and shape are appearing at markets as well. The Italian cocozelle species is rounder, shorter, and is striped.
Courgette (French), Italian squash or zucchino, vegetable “marrow,” and green squash all refer to zucchini.
Gardeners may plant from seeds such as “Seneca,” “Black Beauty,” and “Aristocrat.”
Zucchinis are available year-round, but are most flavorful in the peak “natural” growing season, which is typically May-August.
The smaller and younger fruits (1”-8”) offer a truer zucchini taste experience. Larger squash acquire a bitter taste along with tough seeds that should be scooped out.
Look for smooth skin with a gloss. Heftiness indicates a healthy water content. Any breaks in the tender skin can cause deterioration of the flesh. Sometimes a waxy coating is applied to prevent water loss.
During the summer growing season, small markets and roadside stands will have an outstanding selection.
- Refrigerate (vegetable drawer) in an opened plastic bag. They will remain firm for about one week.
- To avoid damaging the skin, do not clean zucchini until ready to use.
- Because of the high water content, be cautious when adding extra liquids to any recipe.
- When grilling or sautéing, marinate in an Italian seasoning or dressing for two hours beforehand.
- Test a zucchini before use by tasting a small bite. If it is at all bitter, do not use.
- Any squash, including other “summer” varieties and pattypan.
Cabbage, eggplant, pancakes, pasta, pesto, polenta, tomatoes, spinach