What is a zucchini?
Sweet young zucchini sautéed with a knob of butter and seasoned with freshly ground salt and pepper is a colourful accompaniment to fish, chicken or lamb. The delicate flavour is a favourite with children and a good vegetable to try with fussy eaters.
Zucchinis are related to pumpkins and squash. They were introduced to Spain from South America in the 16th century. Zucchinis were grown in Italy about 300 years ago and were popular in the Mediterranean regions for many years before they became common in other parts of the world.
Italian migrants brought zucchinis to Australia in the 1950s and since then they have become a popular crop. They are found in many home vegetable gardens and are a staple in supermarkets and fresh food markets.
Zucchinis are dark green, pale green or yellow, and can be slender or tear-shaped. The most common variety available is Blackjack, a slender, dark green zucchini. There is a yellow variety called Golden zucchini. Sometimes the Lebanese zucchini is available, which is a light green variety with a more pronounced swelling at the tip.
Baby zucchinis are smaller zucchinis that have been picked at an earlier stage of development.
Why zucchinis are good to eat
- Zucchinis are a good source of vitamins A, C and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- They also contain minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function).
- Zucchini contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of green-skinned zucchini supplies 60 kJ (80 kJ for golden-skinned).
How are they grown and harvested?
The zucchini plant grows as a compact bush. The plant grows best in warm, dry conditions in a sunny position.
Zucchini plants produce large yellow male and female flowers around six to eight weeks after planting. You can pick the zucchini flowers and use them for cooking. After pollination, the zucchinis develop on the female flowers.
It is best to harvest zucchinis when they are about 15 cm, as older and larger ones do not have as much flavour and are tougher. Use a sharp knife to cut the zucchini from the main stem of the plant.
If you pick the zucchinis frequently, the plant will keep producing new flowers. Commercial zucchini growing is labour-intensive because zucchinis need to be harvested frequently.
Choose zucchinis that have glossy, smooth skins and feel heavy for their size. Avoid zucchinis with damaged skin or those that are soft or feel spongy.
How to store and keep zucchini
Store zucchini in a vegetable storage bag in the crisper section of your fridge. Use within two to three days after buying.
How to use
- Cook zucchini flowers and serve as a starter – stuff the flowers with a mixture of ricotta and goat’s cheese, chopped chives and parsley, then dip in batter and shallow-fry until golden.
- Make a simple salad – use a vegetable peeler to peel zucchini into ribbons, toss with oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and freshly chopped herbs and then add shaved parmesan on top.
- Try zucchini fritters – mix grated zucchini with feta cheese, chopped mint and seasoning, whisk in egg whites then fry batches of the mixture until crispy and brown.
- Marinate zucchini – grill sliced zucchini and arrange in a flat dish, sprinkle with sliced garlic, chopped mint and seasoning, then drizzle with red wine vinegar and olive oil and marinate for an hour before serving as a side dish.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Better Health Channel
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