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|Zucchini or courgette|
Fruit on plant
|Origin||Italy, 15th century (?)|
|Zucchini or courgette|
Fruit on plant
|Origin||Italy, 15th century (?)|
The zucchini or courgette is a summer squash which can reach nearly a meter in length, but which is usually harvested at half that size or less. Along with certain other squashes and pumpkins, it belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo. Zucchini can be dark or light green. A related hybrid, the golden zucchini, is a deep yellow or orange color.
In a culinary context, the zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is a fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower. The zucchini or courgette originates from Italy.
In North America, Australia, Germany and Scandinavia the plant is commonly called a zucchini (i//; plural: zucchini or zucchinis; from Italian: zucchino [d͡zukˈkiːno], plural: zucchini). This derives from the prevalent name in Italy, zucchina (small pumpkin). The name courgette (French pronunciation: [kuʁ.ʒɛt]) is a French loan word and is commonly used in, among others, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, The Netherlands and South Africa. In Tamil, it is called as 'Seemai Sorakkai'. In South Africa the fruit is typically harvested as a baby vegetable, approximately finger size, and referred to as baby marrows.
The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each emergent zucchini. The male flower grows directly on the stem of the zucchini plant in the leaf axils (where leaf petiole meets stem), on a long stalk, and is slightly smaller than the female. Both flowers are edible, and are often used to dress a meal or to garnish the cooked fruit.
Firm and fresh blossoms that are only slightly open are cooked to be eaten, with pistils removed from female flowers, and stamens removed from male flowers. The stem on the flowers can be retained as a way of giving the cook something to hold onto during cooking, rather than injuring the delicate petals, or they can be removed prior to cooking, or prior to serving. There are a variety of recipes in which the flowers may be deep fried as fritters or tempura (after dipping in a light tempura batter), stuffed, sautéed, baked, or used in soups.
In all probability, this occurred in the very late 19th century, probably near Milan; early varieties usually included the names of nearby cities in their names. The alternative name courgette is from the French word for the vegetable, with the same spelling, and is commonly used in France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. It is a diminutive of courge, French for squash. "Zucca" is the Italian word for pumpkin/ squash and "zucchina" (zucca + ina = little) is its diminutive, becoming "zucchine" in the plural. "zucchino", the masculine form, ("zucchini" in the plural), is commonly used in the dialect of Tuscany as the name of the fruit and sometimes is improperly used in Italian as the name of the plant. An Italian dictionary called "lo Zingarelli 1995, Zanichelli editor", gives both forms, but some others, like "Devoto-Oli, Le Monnier editor", but "Treccani, Treccani editor", the highest linguistic authority, gives 'zucchina' as the correct Italian word, and the masuline form as regional or vernacular. "Zucchini" is used in Tuscany, Australia, Canada and the United States. 'Zucchini', the plural in the dialect of Tuscany, is one of the plural forms in English (along with 'zucchinis') as well as the singular form. The first records of zucchini in the United States date to the early 1920s. It was almost certainly brought over by Italian immigrants and probably was first cultivated in the United States in California. In South Africa, they are called baby marrow.
When used for food, zucchini are usually picked when under 20 cm (8 in.) in length, when the seeds are still soft and immature. Mature zucchini can be as large as a baseball bat. The larger ones are often fibrous. A zucchini with the flowers attached are a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and are especially sought by many people for its sweeter flavor.
Unlike cucumber, zucchini is usually served cooked. It can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques, including steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, or incorporated in other recipes such as soufflés. Zucchini can also be baked into bread similar to banana bread or incorporated into a cake mix. Its flowers can be eaten stuffed and are a delicacy when deep fried, as tempura.
The zucchini has a delicate flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil, with or without fresh herbs. The skin is left in place. Quick cooking of barely wet zucchini in oil or butter allows the fruit to partially boil and steam, with the juices concentrated in the final moments of frying when the water has gone, prior to serving. Zucchini can also be eaten raw, sliced or shredded in a cold salad, as well as lightly cooked in hot salads, as in Thai or Vietnamese recipes. Mature (larger sized) zucchini are well suited for cooking in breads.
In Mexico, the flower (known as flor de calabaza) is often cooked in soups or used as a filling for quesadillas. The fruit is used in stews, soups (i.e. caldo de res, de pollo or de pescado, mole de olla, etc.) and other preparations. Both the flower and the fruit are eaten readily throughout Mexico.
In Italy, zucchini are served in a variety of ways, in the pan, in the oven, boiled or fried, alone or in combination with other ingredients. At home and in some restaurants, it's possible to eat the flowers as well, cooked in deep-frying, known as fiori di zucca.
In France zucchini are a key ingredient in ratatouille, a stew of summer fruits and vegetables prepared in olive oil and cooked for an extended time over low heat. The dish, originating near present-day Nice, is served as a side dish or on its own at lunch with bread. Zucchini are stuffed with meat with other fruits like tomatoes or bell peppers in a dish named courgette farcie (stuffed zucchinis).
In Turkey, zucchini is the main ingredient in the popular dish mücver, or "zucchini pancakes", made from shredded zucchini, flour and eggs, lightly fried in olive oil and eaten with yogurt.They are also used not infrequently in kebabs along with various meats.
In the Levant, zucchini is stuffed with minced meat and rice plus herbs and spices and steamed. It is also used in various kinds of stew. Stews that have low salinity are favorable in such cooking. It can also be stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat and eaten with yogurt.
In Greece, zucchini is usually fried or boiled with other fruits (often green chili peppers and eggplants). It is served as an hors d'œuvre or as a main dish, especially during fasting seasons. Zucchini is also often stuffed with minced meat, rice and herbs and served with avgolemono sauce. In several parts of Greece, the flowers of the plant are stuffed with white cheese, usually feta or mizithra cheese, or with a mixture of rice, herbs and occasionally minced meat. Then they are deep-fried or baked with tomato sauce in the oven.
In Bulgaria, zucchini are fried and then served with a dip, made from yogurt, garlic and dill. Another popular dish is oven-baked zucchini—sliced or grated—covered with a mixture of eggs, yogurt, flour and dill.
The zucchini fruit is low in calories (approximately 15 food calories per 100 g fresh zucchini) and contains useful amounts of folate (24 μg/100 g), potassium (280 mg/100 g) and vitamin A (384 IU [115 μg]/100 g).
Zucchini is one of the easiest vegetables to cultivate in temperate climates. As such, it has a reputation among home gardeners for overwhelming production. One good way to control over-abundance is to harvest the flowers, which are an expensive delicacy in markets because of the difficulty in storing and transporting them. The male flower is borne on the end of a stalk and is longer lived.
While easy to grow, zucchini, like all squash, requires plentiful bees for pollination. In areas of pollinator decline or high pesticide use, such as mosquito-spray districts, gardeners often experience fruit abortion, where the fruit begins to grow, then dries or rots. This is due to an insufficient number of pollen grains delivered to the female flower. It can be corrected by hand pollination or by increasing the bee population.
Closely related to zucchini are Lebanese summer squash or kusa (not to be confused with Cushaw), but they often are lighter green or even white. Some seed catalogs do not distinguish them. Various varieties of round zucchinis are grown in different countries under different names, such as "Tondo di Piacenza" in Italy and "Ronde de Nice" in France. In the late 1990s American producers in California cultivated and began marketing round yellow and green zucchini known as "8-ball" squash (the yellow ones are sometimes known as "1-ball" or "gold ball"). White zucchini (summer squash) is sometimes seen as a mutation and can appear on the same plant as its green counterpart.
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