A Brief History
You may know it as courgette or marrow. What exactly is a zucchini? This plant is part of the squash family, specifically summer squash. Scientifically, they all belong to the Curcubita family.
Zucchini is classified as a summer squash because it thrives in warm climatic zones or summer season. It is an easy-growing crop, hence is abundant in most regions of the world.
Zucchini is a popular name in North America and Italy. In fact, Italians are attributed to have popularized the name zucchini in the early 19th Century. On the other hand, courgette or marrow is more common in France and U.K.
Initially, zucchini existed wildly in Mexico. Nonetheless, Mexicans made use of the edible zucchini flowers, instead of the fruit itself. Together with pumpkins, they were incorporated in many household meals.
On that note, zucchini is an actual fruit. It develops from the mentioned flowers. However, it is popularly used as a vegetable.
3 Major Types of Zucchini
Hurried shopping can make you pick cucumbers rather than zucchini. These two have a striking resemblance. However, zucchini does not only come in green.
Besides the common green ones, there are yellow (golden) as well as globe zucchinis. They also vary in size, shape and texture.
For instance, they can be harvested and used in different developmental stages. Certain regions like South Africa utilize the small ones, referred to as baby marrows. In the U.S.A, they are commonly harvested with a length of up to 8 inches.
In terms of shape, the globe cultivar is more cylindrical and stout. The flavor and juiciness tends to disappear the more it is left to grow.
How to Cook with Zucchini
Zucchini is a versatile food item. Furthermore, its mild, creamy taste blends well with all sorts of dishes, without overpowering them.
Thanks to its soft texture, you can transform zucchini into numerous desirable shapes and forms. For instance, zucchini noodles/ribbons, mash, cubes, rounds, sticks, wedges and slices.
You can choose to – grill, sauté, stir-fry, steam or bake zucchini. Additionally, you can incorporate them on baked products like cakes, muffins and cookies.
In savory dishes, use them as a substitute for potatoes as well as meatballs. Toss them in salads, stews, roast vegetables, casseroles, skewers, curries, sandwiches, soups as well as fritters.
Nutritional Value and Health Benefits
For any avid low-carb dieter or weight watcher, zucchini deserves a special spot. Due to its high water content, zucchini has low-caloric properties.
As such, it has a low glycemic index. Not only this, it is low in natural sugars and carbohydrates. This makes it ideal for weight management.
Apart from these qualities, zucchini is rich in important vitamins and minerals that benefit our bodies. Specifically, it contains Vitamin A, B6, B2, C, minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, folate, antioxidants as well as fiber.
Health wise, these nutrients and antioxidants buffer your body by: improving eye health, reducing blood sugar, hydrating the skin and cells, maintaining heart health as well as facilitating bowel movement.
Shelf Life of Fresh, Cooked, Pickled, Frozen and Dried Zucchini
Being high in water content, zucchini is highly perishable. As such, improper storage conditions hasten spoilage.
Not only that, it is delicate to the touch. Therefore, avoid excessive handling.
For effective storage, use the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator.
To preserve their texture, don’t place them beneath heavy vegetables. In addition to that, wipe off any soil.
Avoid washing them before storing. However, if you have to, thoroughly wipe off excess moisture after cleaning to prevent mold growth.
Besides this, avoid leaving zucchini – whether whole or sliced, at room temperature. If you have to, only leave whole, raw ones. Lay them on a dry surface, away from heat. They will remain in good shape for 5 days, before starting to shrivel.
On the other hand, well refrigerated raw zucchini keeps well for up to 2 weeks.
If you have raw slices, cook as soon as possible. Refrigerate any cooked leftovers. Consume within 1 week.
Nonetheless, you do not have to be confined to your counter or refrigerator. There are other effective methods you can use to maximize the shelf life of zucchini.
Check them out:
Submerging zucchini in brining solution not only preserves its quality, it enhances flavor. The soft, spongy flesh generously absorbs the brine, leaving them with a tangy, earthy taste.
Whereas there are countless pickling recipes, sticking with a tried and tested one guarantees optimal results.
Nonetheless, here are a few hacks to keep in mind:
- Use sterilized equipment to prevent cross-contamination.
- Thoroughly clean the vegetables.
- Slice or dice the zucchini evenly to facilitate uniform brining.
- Store unopened pickles in the pantry, away from direct heat and sunlight.
- Refrigerate and seal tightly any opened jars.
When unopened, well pickled zucchini keep well for up to 2 years. Use opened ones within 1 week.
This is another great alternative to extending the shelf life. However, freezing raw, whole zucchini is not recommended. This is mostly due to freezer burns which cause spoilage. Hence, blanch the zucchinis first. To do this:
- Slice them into thick pieces.
- Blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes.
- Shock them in ice cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Lay them out to dry before storing in airtight containers.
Under a constant freezing temperature of 0°, zucchini will last for up to 1 year.
You can bet on well dried foods to last you a long time. Zucchini is no exception. When drying, you have the option of using a mechanical food dehydrator or the oven.
To ensure optimal results:
- Clean and cut the zucchini evenly for equal heat distribution. You are lost for options when slicing – you can do shreds, cubes or rounds.
- Owing to their high water content, squeeze out any excess after slicing.
- Arrange them on a single layer for effective drying.
- You can flavor them with a marinade and seasonings of your choice.
- Well dried zucchinis are brittle and crispy.
- Allow them to cool completely before storage.
- Store in airtight containers, in a cool, dry place.
Well dried zucchinis last up to 1 year.
It is fairly easy to identify spoilage. Be on the lookout for:
- Shriveled skin
- Sunken, mushy flesh
- Pungent smell
- Cloudy liquid emanating from the flesh
- Darkened skin and flesh
- Mold growth