Hello my dear readers,
Another Monday, another week 🙂
Today let’s talk about Zucchini or Courgette, a rustic vegetable that is quite easy to grow and therefore very popular. In fact, it cannot miss from the greengrocer or supermarket, just as it cannot miss in summer, since it needs a sunny climate to mature; characteristic also indicated by their funny scientific name, cucurbita pepo, where the Greek pépon means “matured in the sun”.
Zucchini belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, the same of melons and squash. The zucchini plant is annual, with a creeping or climbing herbaceous stem, and it fears the cold, preferring a temperate climate.
Zucchini, like some other very popular products, including chocolate and beans, was imported from the Americas in the 1500s by the Spaniards. And yet it was precisely in Italy, that the various types of zucchini that are present throughout the world nowadays, were “derived” through different crossings (not from nothing the English word “zucchini” is used). Italy is still one of the world’s largest producers of this vegetable. Imagine that only a few years ago, Italy entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest zucchini in the world collected in the province of Ferrara, a full 2 meters long zucchini.
Maybe you know it as zucchini, but there are so many additional types out there, from courgette or marrows to summer squash, crookneck to pattypan, depending on where you live.
The most common in European markets are undoubtedly long zucchini, usually dark green and cylindrical. Then there are the round zucchini, particularly appreciated for recipes that require a filling; the patisson zucchini, tasty and white, yellow or orange; and the eccentric zucchini, which is different from all the other types.
It is a pleasure to grow zucchini in the garden or in a pot on your balcony.
Those who want to grow zucchini in pots can choose containers at least 45 – 50 cm wide. Choose a universal fertile soil. The depth of the vase should be at least 45 cm. For growing in pots you can also choose the climbing zucchini, provided you grow it near a railing.
Or if you chose to grow it in the garden, should be grown in parallel rows with a distance of 60 cm from each other. Each plant, placed in the same row, must be about 3 feet away from each other.
Zucchini plants prefer a soil that tends to acid, with an optimal pH of between 5.8 and 6.8. The plants must be exposed in full sun and the soil must be fertile and compact.
Zucchini need a lot of water. To prevent possible rotting, at the time of irrigation, avoid wetting the leaves or the fruit. If you are not sure of the quality of your soil, a couple of days after planting, you can fertilize it with liquid or granulated fertilizer, even better if based on nitrogen: the nitrogen-based fertilizer in granules is also more economic and adapts well to every type of cultivation!
If you plan to grow zucchini starting from the seed, you can start to sprout the seeds from the beginning of May by sowing directly in the open field. The seeds require from 5 to 10 days to sprout, at an optimal temperature between 18 and 28 °C. To save yourself a bit of waiting, you can start growing zucchini starting from plants or sowing in a protected environment.
Zucchini are very sensitive to frost, so depending on your geographical location, choose the ideal period for planting: any risk of late frost must be passed.
Zucchini prefer a warm and temperate climate, with good ventilation. The optimal temperature is for the development is included 20-28 °C.
But the best of it, the zucchini gives it in the kitchen, where it lends itself to multiple uses: it can be served as an appetizer if grilled and put in oil or marinated, it can be used with pasta, as a side dish with meat or fish or even as a second course in the case of recipes such as stuffed zucchini or the light and tasty zucchini parmigiana.
Because the zucchini is a versatile ingredient with which you can have fun preparing both simple and elaborate dishes, from the more traditional ones like the zucchini parmigiana or the ricotta and zucchini savory cake, to the original and “fashion” ones like the salted cheesecake zucchini to bring to the table as a fresh appetizer to amaze your guests. With zucchini you can prepare quick and easy dishes in a few minutes without giving up interesting and appetizing flavors and combinations such as zucchini pasta with wild fennel, aromatic zucchini rolls or the classic side dish of sautéed zucchini served as a dessert with apples, almonds and orange juice.
The stuffed zucchini are a classic preparation of Italian cuisine, with cold cuts and vegetables, to be enjoyed hot or warm, they are appetizers, a side dish or an appetizing and complete second course. For a second course of meat with vegetables, choose the scallops with zucchini and mint, a light dish, easy and quick to prepare for a family dinner, suitable for everyone, even for the little ones! Fritatte, baked zucchini, and tasty meatballs are the ideal solution for a complete, healthy and appetizing meal to take to the office or to enjoy with friends outdoors to enjoy a sunny day.
Based on what you decide to combine with zucchini, you can get refined and original results. Very simple!
During summer, you can find zucchini that still have attached their flowers, that are so so good also eat them alone. They are traditionally battered and fried, but are also delicious stuffed with speck and mozzarella or ricotta cheese. They are so delicate but have a distinctive zucchini flavor.
Composed of 90% water, the zucchini has a delicate flavor and a very high filling power which, combined with very few calories (18 per 100g), makes it a perfect ingredient for any type of weight loss diet. Detoxifying and diuretic, zucchini are rich in potassium and vitamins A, C and E, revealing themselves to be a good health allies.
Having a lot of water, together with the abundant presence of potassium, makes the zucchini a highly diuretic vegetable. Furthermore, the low glycemic index makes the zucchini a food particularly suitable for diabetic persons.
Zucchini are an important source of mineral salts and vitamins, while fibers are present, particularly in the peel, but not in very large quantities. Thanks to their consistency and their composition, the zucchini are very digestible and therefore can be easily eaten by children, the elderly and those who suffer from digestive disorders.
Thanks to the abundance of water and potassium, zucchini are recommended in case of hypertension. They also help eliminate excess cholesterol.
Zucchini, if consumed often, help reduce water retention and consequently cellulite. They are also indicated for those who follow a diet to lose weight or simply for those who want to keep fit, being low in calories, rich in water and with high satiating power.
Their diuretic action makes this vegetable suitable for combating infections and inflammation of the urinary tract.
Zucchini are also useful if used on the skin. In particular, like cucumber, zucchini also help to counteract the bags under the eyes and prevent expression lines. Thanks to the presence of vitamin C, they are beneficial for skin health and protect from sun damage.
Thank you all for reading. Are you thinking that it’s time to eat more zucchini to try to keep the weight under control? Let me know in the comments below how you prefer to consume this versatile vegetable in the kitchen!
In Europe, Italy is one of the largest producers of zucchini, and its cultivation is widespread in all regions but especially in Sicily, Lazio, Piedmont, Veneto, Puglia, Tuscany and Liguria.
Join me next time and I’ll take you in Veneto, Padua more precisely, almost in my home backyard 😉
And last but not least, don’t doubt about yourself as you have got everything what it takes to make your dreams a reality! Never underestimate yourself! Believe it!
Have a wonderful week! See you next time!
All photo credit Google Images & Pixabay edited by Popsicle Society