|Zucchini / Courgette|
Zucchini fruit and spent flower on plant
|Italy, 19th century (?)|
In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.
Flowerpetiole meets stem), on a long stalk, and is slightly smaller than the female. Both flowers are edible, and are often used to dress a meal or garnish the cooked fruit.
Firm and fresh blossoms that are only slightly open are cooked to be eaten, with pistils removed from female flowers, and stamens removed from male flowers. The stem on the flowers can be retained as a way of giving the cook something to hold onto during cooking, rather than injuring the delicate petals, or they can be removed prior to cooking, or prior to serving. There are a variety of recipes in which the flowers may be deep fried as fritters or tempura (after dipping in a light tempura batter), stuffed, sautéed, baked, or used in soups.
In Mexico, the flower is often used for a soup, sopa de flor de calabaza, and it is quite popular in a variation of the traditional quesadillas, becoming quesadillas de flor de calabaza. Zucchini is also used in a variety of other dishes (rajas), and as a side dish.
History and etymologyZucchini, like all summer squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called "zucchini" were developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the "New World".
In all probability, this occurred in the very late 19th century, probably near Milan; early varieties usually included the names of nearby cities in their names. The alternative name courgette is from the French word for the vegetable, with the same spelling, and is commonly used in France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. It is a diminutive of courge, French for squash. "Zucca" is the Italian word for squash and "zucchina" is its diminutive, becoming "zucchine" in the plural. However, "zucchino", the masculine form, becoming "zucchini" in the plural, is commonly used in the dialect of Tuscany as the name of the fruit and sometimes is improperly used in Italian as the name of the plant. An Italian dictionary called "lo Zingarelli 1995, Zanichelli editor", gives both forms, but some others, like "Devoto-Oli, Le Monnier editor" and "Treccani, Treccani editor" give just Zucchina as the correct Italian word. "Zucchini" is used in Tuscany , and in Australia, Canada and the United States. 'Zucchini', the plural in the dialect of Tuscany, is one of the plural forms in English (along with 'zucchinis') as well as the singular form. The first records of zucchini in the United States date to the early 1920s. It was almost certainly brought over by Italian immigrants and probably was first cultivated in the United States in California. In South Africa, they are called baby marrow .
Unlike cucumber, zucchini is usually served cooked. It can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques, including steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, or incorporated in other recipes such as soufflés. It also can be baked into a bread, zucchini bread or incorporated into a cake mix. Its flowers can be eaten stuffed and are a delicacy when deep fried, as tempura.
The zucchini has a delicate flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil, with or without fresh herbs. The skin is left in place. Quick cooking of barely wet zucchini in oil or butter allows the fruit to partially boil and steam, with the juices concentrated in the final moments of frying when the water has gone, prior to serving. Zucchini can also be eaten raw, sliced or shredded in a cold salad, baked into a bread similar to banana bread, as well as lightly cooked in hot salads, as in Thai or Vietnamese recipes. Mature (larger sized) zucchini, while not often eaten by themselves, are well suited for cooking in breads.
Zucchini should be stored not longer than three days. They are prone to chilling damage which shows as sunken pits in the surface of the fruit, especially when brought up to room temperature after cool storage.
In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the courgette to be Britain's 10th favorite culinary vegetable.
In Mexico, the flower (known as flor de calabaza) is preferred over the fruit and is often cooked in soups or used as a filling for quesadillas.
In Italy, zucchini are served in a variety of ways, especially breaded and pan-fried. Some restaurants in Rome specialize in deep-frying the flowers, known as fiori di zucca.
In France zucchini is a key ingredient in ratatouille, a stew of summer fruits and vegetables prepared in olive oil and cooked for an extended time over low heat. The dish, originating near present-day Nice, is served as a side dish or on its own at lunch with bread. Zucchini are stuffed with meat with other fruits like tomatoes or bell peppers in a dish named courgette farcie (stuffed zucchini).
In Turkish cuisine, zucchini is the main ingredient in the popular dish mücver , or "zucchini pancakes", made from shredded zucchini, flour and eggs, lightly fried in olive oil and eaten with yogurt.
In the Levant, zucchini is stuffed with minced meat and rice plus herbs and spices and steamed. It is also used in various kinds of stew.
In Greece, zucchini is usually fried or boiled with other fruits (often green chili peppers and eggplants). It is served as an hors d'œuvre or as a main dish, especially during fasting seasons. Zucchini is also often stuffed with minced meat, rice and herbs and served with avgolemono sauce. In several parts of Greece, the flowers of the plant are stuffed with white cheese, usually feta or mizithra cheese, or with a mixture of rice, herbs and occasionally minced meat. Then they are deep-fried or baked with tomato sauce in the oven.
In Bulgaria, zucchini are fried and then served with a dip, made from yoghurt, garlic and dill. Another popular dish is oven-baked zucchini—sliced or grated—covered with a mixture of eggs, yoghurt, flour and dill.
In Egypt, zucchini are cooked with tomato sauce, garlic and onions.
NutritionThe zucchini fruit is low in calories (approximately 15 food calories per 100 g fresh zucchini) and contains useful amounts of folate (24 mcg/100 g), potassium (280 mg/100 g) and vitamin A (384 IU [115 mcg]/100 g. 1/2 cup of zucchini also contains 19% of the recommended amount of manganese.
Cultivationtemperate climates. As such, it has a reputation among home gardeners for overwhelming production. One good way to control over-abundance is to harvest the flowers, which are an expensive delicacy in markets because of the difficulty in storing and transporting them. The male flower is borne on the end of a stalk and is longer lived.
While easy to grow, zucchini, like all squash, requires plentiful bees for pollination. In areas of pollinator decline or high pesticide use, such as mosquito-spray districts, gardeners often experience fruit abortion, where the fruit begins to grow, then dries or rots. This is due to an insufficient number of pollen grains delivered to the female flower. It can be corrected by hand pollination or by increasing the bee population.
Closely related to zucchini are Lebanese summer squash or kusa, but they often are lighter green or even white. Some seed catalogs do not distinguish them. Various varieties of round zucchinis are grown in different countries under different names, such as "Tondo di Piacenza" in Italy and "Ronde de Nice" in France. In the late 1990s American producers in California cultivated and began marketing round yellow and green zucchini known as "8-ball" squash (the yellow ones are sometimes known as "1-ball" or "gold ball").