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Cooking with Fresh Zucchini Vegetables

Zucchini


Zucchini belongs to the same Cucurbita genus as yellow squash, pattypan, and pumpkin. This is one of home gardeners’ favorite summer crops and the abundance of the harvest often tries the minds of grower and recipient alike.


For some time the only variety available was the familiar long green or green striped zucchini, which was frequently allowed to grow to be a foot or more long. Today you can find a bright yellow zucchini, along with small round ones, no bigger than a tennis ball. Some markets will also feature tiny little finger-length zucchini, which are delicious butter steamed whole, or trimmed and added as is to crudités platters or cold buffet.


Even though zucchini has been overwhelming the American market only for the last twenty-five to thirty years, it has been very popular in Europe for a long time, long enough to have garnered a number of different names. In France it is called courgette, in Italy it is zucchini, zuchetta, or cocozelle, in England you will find it as courgette, marrow, or vegetable marrow. No matter what it is called, it is an extremely versatile vegetable. Not only can it be baked, fried, stewed, stuffed, and eaten raw, among other ways, it is so delicately flavored that it can be incorporated in muffins, breads, desserts, and other sweet preparations.


Occasionally you hit on a particularly butter batch of zucchini. Bitterness probably has to do with the soil rather than the season. Sometimes the zucchini in your pot throws off quantities of water, while other times, in the same recipe, you need to add a lid to the pot because the zucchini release so little water. The amount of water seems to be determined by the variety of zucchini as well as the rainfall during growing. If it is too watery, it can be salted, salting any remove some of the bitterness, too.


Like all squashes, zucchini is low in fat and calories, making it an ideal diet ingredient. It is a good source of beta-carotene – even though the flesh is pale green – which makes it one of those foods that may aid in the prevention of some types of cancer. Zucchini also provides moderate amounts of vitamin C and potassium.
While Zucchini is not the only squash to produce edible blossoms, they are the ones we seem to eat most frequently. The colorful orange blooms of the zucchini plant are tender, moist, and slightly peppery. They can be eaten raw, in salads, like nasturtium and chive flowers, or stuffed with all manner of fillings and either baked, braised, or deep fried to enjoy as part of any meal.


Zucchini blossoms contain few calories, no fat or cholesterol, but do offer a good amount of beta-carotene and some vitamin C.


While the flowers are relatively delicate, they should be rinsed and dried (or spun in a salad spinner if eating uncooked) before eating, to ferret out any bugs that may be hiding inside. They will crisp up slightly if wrapped lightly in paper towels and refrigerated for an hour or two before adding to the salad bowl.

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