A snapshot of Zucchini
Zucchinis are best in season most of the year in Australia (except in the winter and early Spring months) but they aren’t always on everyone’s grocery lists. In this post we take a closer look at these delicious vegetables and share with you some facts you might not have known before.
Zucchinis are dark green, pale green or yellow, and can be slender, oblong shaped. Closely related to pumpkins and squash, their mild flavour is popular with children and a good vegetable for fussy eaters. Zucchini plants also produce large yellow male and female flowers around six to eight weeks after planting. You can pick the zucchini flowers and also use them for cooking.
They’re fat free and a great source of fibre. They contain vitamins A, C and K. They also contain minerals such as potassium (known to help regulate blood pressure) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function). While they are extremely low in calories, they also provide the feeling of being full. Therefore, eating zucchini is a great way to satisfy your appetite.
Selecting a good zucchini
When you buy zucchini make sure that it’s young and sweet in taste. The zucchini squash that has flowers attached are the real fresh and juicy examples. If you can’t see any flowers (as sometimes these are removed before being put out in the supermarket) look out for those which look sleek, smooth, have bright-coloured skin and are firm when you hold them.
Store freshly picked, unwashed zucchini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (try not to keep zucchini fruit stored for more than 3 days, since they can get damaged in overly cold temperatures) If damaged, you will notice hollow pits in the skin surface of the fruit after you take it out of the refrigerator.
If you want to freeze them, wash the zucchini first and pat dry, trim off the ends then slice crosswise (including peel) into less than 1cm thick sections, then blanch them so they can keep longer. Blanching preserves the nutrients and flavor, and allows your zucchini slices to stay good while frozen for up to one year. To blanch, boil a large pot of water and then boil the zucchini slices in the water for three minutes. Remove the zucchini slices from the water and place them straight away in ice cold water to cool quickly. Place the cooled slices onto clean towels to drain them, and then place them in freezer containers.
They can be eaten raw (in salads) or cooked (steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed, barbecued etc). Here are few ideas on how to prepare and serve them:
- Sweet young zucchini cooked in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper makes the perfect accompaniment to fish, chicken or lamb.
- Cook zucchini flowers and serve as an appetiser– stuff the flowers with ricotta and goat’s cheese, chopped chives and parsley, then dip in batter and shallow-fry until golden.
- Enjoy a fresh 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.
- Sample some 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.
- Marinade zucchini strips then grill 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.
- Incorporate some in your dessert by baking a Chocolate Zucchini cake.