They overrun gardens. They overflow kitchens. Their uncanny abundance leaves home gardeners desperate for zucchini bread recipes calling for pounds of the product, just to get rid of the stuff. Indeed, if left too long on the vine, this strand of cucurbita pepo will reach B-grade horror movie proportions (the largest zucchini on record weighed in at 65 pounds).Yet despite their almost weed-like superfluousness, summer squash–and in particular, the zucchini–remains a beloved member of the season’s yield (and for good reason).
Like all squashes, the zucchini originated in the Americas (Mexico, specifically) some 10,000 years ago. Put together with beans and maize, squash completed the trinity of staple foods–called “the three sisters”–enjoyed by early Native Americans. Once squash had charmed European explorers to the New World, the vegetable was introduced in the West and scientists set about developing different varieties. The zucchini as we know it came out of Italy, and there received its recognizably Italian name. The French, however, dubbed the same variety courgette, a name that is now widely used in the United Kingdom.
Unbeknownst to some (for example, me, before writing this post), the blossom of the zucchini plant is a by-product just as highly-prized as the squash itself. Recipes abound for fried or stuffed zucchini blossoms, and the delicate orange flowers allegedly make a fine garnish as well.
Like all produce so far featured on The Sprout Diaries, zucchini strikes another home run when it comes to nutritional benefits. Extremely low in calories, this summer vegetable is an excellent source of maganese and vitamin C, as well as a couple of other antioxidant nutrients that are particularly helpful for protection against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Be sure to leave the skin on your zucchini when you cook it, though, since this is where the majority of nutrients resides.