Zucchini and Summer Squash

Zucchini gets its name from the Italian word zucchino, which means small squash. Also known as summer squash, this little vegetable is low in calories and big on vitamin C. A favourite among backyard gardeners, zucchini and summer squash have a mild flavour, soft shell, and creamy white flesh that makes it a delicious addition to any summer meal. It can be sautéed, grilled or baked for a tasty dish that can stand as a side or be incorporated into a main entrée. 

Zucchini and Summer Squash

Nutrition Notes

Zucchini and summer squash are short on calories while being an excellent source of vitamin C. One-half cup (125 ml) of raw zucchini provides more than 15 percent (10 milligrams) of your daily requirement for vitamin C for just 10 calories!

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that's known for fighting heart disease and certain cancers. A high intake of vitamin C-rich foods - like zucchini - can also ward off cold and flu viruses by boosting our body's immune defenses.

Canada's Food Guide recommends that adults eat 7 to 10 daily servings of vegetables and fruits. One-half cup (125 ml) of cooked zucchini or summer squash is equal to one Food Guide serving of vegetables and provides the following nutrients:

Calories  10 kcal 
 Fat  0
 Protein  1 gram
 Carbohydrates  2 grams
 Vitamin C  10 milligrams

(Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007)

Varieties

Zucchini and other summer squash belong to the species botanically known as Curcubita pepo. A close relative of the cucumber, summer squash are available in yellow, green or light green colours and can be long and narrow like a cucumber, or short and round like a pumpkin.

Zucchini is the most well-known variety of summer squash. Other varieties include the yellow Crookneck and Straightneck squash, and the saucer-shaped Pattypan squash.

While each variety of summer squash has its own colour and shape, they all have one thing in common: every part of the vegetable is edible. In addition to edible skin, flesh, and seeds, some zucchini also produce edible flowers which indicate that the vegetable is young and at its peak in flavour and quality.

Buying

In Canada, zucchini and summer squash are available year-round in most grocery stores however the peak season for zucchini is July through late September.

Choose young zucchini and summer squash that are no more than six inches long or one to two inches in diameter. A smaller sized summer squash is a sign that the vegetable is at its best in flavour and texture - not over mature.

An intact stem and shiny skin is also a sign of quality. Avoid zucchini or summer squash that have less than one inch of stem attached or cuts and bruises on the skin.

Storing

Zucchini and summer squash should be stored for no longer than three days in a cool, dry place such as your refrigerator crisper drawer.

Cooked zucchini and summer squash can be placed in a covered container and refrigerated for up to two days.

To freeze blanched zucchini and summer squash, cut the vegetable into small pieces and place them in boiling water for two minutes. Then, plunge the cooked peices into ice cold water, drain in a colander and seal in an airtight bag or container labeled with the date of purchase.

Stored in the freezer, blanched zucchini or summer squash can be kept for ten months to one year.

Preparing

Zucchini and summer squash require little more than a quick sauté in olive oil or butter and a sprinkle of fresh herbs to enhance their flavour.

There's no need to remove the skin but be sure to wash it under cold running water before slicing the vegetable into one-inch thick pieces.

To sauté zucchini or summer squash, heat two teaspoons (10 ml) of oil in a frying pan. Then, add the washed, sliced vegetable to the pan flipping occasionally to encourage even cooking. Allow the flesh to brown slightly before removing it from the heat and serving.

Eating

Zucchini or summer squash are usually served cooked but can be enjoyed raw. They have soft skin and flesh that can be easily sliced, diced or shredded into a variety of savoury dishes. Shredded zucchini or summer squash can also be added to baked goods for added nutrition.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy

Breakfast

Enjoy a slice of homemade zucchini bread topped with your favorite nut butter.

Try a small homemade muffin baked with shredded zucchini with your morning cup of coffee.

Sauté one-quarter cup (60 ml) of chopped zucchini in olive oil and add it to a spinach omelet.

Shred one-quarter cup (60 ml) of summer squash into your favorite quick bread recipe for an unexpected boost of vitamin C in the morning.

Lunch

Add cooked, diced zucchini or summer squash to homemade or canned vegetable soup.

Toss match-stick pieces of zucchini or cubed summer squash into pasta primavera or an Asian stir-fry.

Layer grilled zucchini, tomato and partly-skimmed mozzarella cheese unto to a grilled chicken wrap or sandwich.

Mix one-half cup (125 ml) of shredded zucchini into your coleslaw for a unique twist and added vitamin C.

Dinner

Add one-half cup (125 ml) of cubed zucchini or summer squash to your favourite curry recipe.

Sauté shredded or sliced zucchini or summer squash in olive oil for a tasty side dish.

Instead of pasta, thinly slice zucchini using a mandolin and toss in your favourite tomato or marinara sauce. Enjoy these "zucchini noodles" as a low-calorie side dish.

Add one-cup (250 ml) of cubed summer squash to a pot of beef stew or vegetarian ragout to boost your intake of vitamin C.

Top of your burger with a slice of grilled zucchini as a low-sodium alternative to a pickle.

Snacks and Desserts

Munch on raw slices of zucchini, instead of cucumber, as a snack throughout the day.

Enjoy a small slice of zucchini chocolate cake as an after-dinner treat.

Snack on a small homemade muffin made with shredded zucchini or summer squash.

More Information

 http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=62 - The World's Healthiest Foods 

Did you know?

Zucchini with the flowers attached are a sign of a truly delicious young fruit, and are considered a delicacy by some Italians.