Last summer, I returned home from a 10-day motorhome trip to monster zucchinis growing in my garden. No matter how much I begged, I couldn’t give them away. This prolific squash may be the least appreciated summer vegetable. That’s perhaps because zucchini can quickly grow to 3 feet or longer.
While often maligned, zucchini — even large zucchini — is versatile, delicious and nutritious. In cooking, zucchini is usually used when it’s 8 inches in length or less. It can be eaten raw or cooked in soups, salads, omelets and frittatas. It’s also a great addition to marinara sauce.
Zucchini can be a side dish, like sautéed zucchini or, with dip, as appetizer “zucchini fries.” Zucchini can also be the star. Cut it lengthwise, remove the seeds, and stuff with rice, meats, cheeses or just about anything and bake. It can be sliced or “spiralized” into no-grain, no-wheat, low-carb “pasta” topped with sauce. Large zucchinis can be peeled and shredded for zucchini bread, and the flowers can be stuffed and deep-fried.
Zucchini is low in calories (15 calories for 3 ounces) and contains folate, potassium, A and B complex vitamins, vitamin C, as well as zinc, magnesium and other minerals. It’s high in fiber and has no cholesterol or unhealthy fats. Zucchini is also rich in antioxidants believed to slow aging and prevent disease with free-radical-zapping properties.
Typical North American varieties of zucchini came here during the late 19th century with Italian immigrants. The word comes from Italian zucchina, diminutive of zucca, meaning “gourd, marrow, pumpkin or squash.”
Zucchini is really a fruit, a botanical berry called a pepo, the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower (zucchini plants have both male and female flowers; only female flowers produce zucchini). Zucchini is easy to grow in warm, frost-free weather and thrives in fertile, moisture-rich soil.
If you love zucchini, check out the zucchini festival held this August 24-27, in Obetz, Ohio.
Got a favorite zucchini recipe?
Email Bobbie with “Zucchini” in the subject line.
This chowder is perfect for chilly fall days. While it’s most delicious freshly made, you can also make the base and freeze for later. Then thaw and add the milk, tomatoes and cheese.
- 1½ pounds zucchini
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1⁄3 cup flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon bouillon
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3 cups water
- 10 ounces corn
- 14 ounces milk or half and half
- 6 medium-size tomatoes (or 15 ounces canned)
- 1 cup fontina cheese, shredded
- ¼ cup Romano cheese, grated
- Cut zucchini into ½-inch pieces. Sauté zucchini, onion, parsley and basil in butter for 8 minutes.Stir flour, salt and cayenne into vegetables.Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened.
Remove from heat. Stir in bouillon, lemon juice and water. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.
Add corn and heat again to boiling.Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 8 minutes. (You can freeze this base.)Stir in milk and tomatoes.
Heat to boiling. Stir in cheeses and enjoy.