Zucchini has a long known history. Zucchini along with other summer squash has been cultivated in Central and South America for over 5000 years. Archeologists have found squash seeds preserved in Mexican caves more than 10000 years old.The vegetable was possibly introduced in Europe and other parts of world by European colonists. “Three sisters” as known in South America are Squash, corn and beans. Today zucchini have been cultivated commercially across the globe.
Zucchini name as we know it popularly has Italian origin. French and other European call it by name courgettes. Other names are long marrow or garden marrow.
Culinary uses of Zucchini
Zucchini though can be consumed raw, sliced or shredded in salads, it is usually served cooked. Zucchini recipes can be prepared
using range of cooking techniques like steaming, boiling, grilling, stuffing, baking, frying and others. Delicate flavor of zucchini requires quick cooking. Zucchini especially mature ones are baked in breads. Zucchini flowers can be eaten stuffed or fried.
In Mexico, the zucchini flower is preferred and used in soups or as a filling for quesadillas. In Italy, where it got its name, it is breaded and pan fried. Fiori di zucca is Roman recipe involving deep frying of flowers. It is key ingredient of French cuisine Ratatouille. Courgette farcie or stuffed zucchini with meat and other fruits is also popular in Italy. mücver , or “zucchini pancakes” is a Turkish cuisine made from shredded zucchini with flour and eggs and consumed with yogurt. Zucchini (calabacín in Spanish) is a core ingredient of pisto in Spain. “Spanish” tortilla called “tortilla de calabacín” is made from frying Zucchini with egg, onion and olive oil.
Zucchini fruit is good source of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese. One serving of Zucchini around 125 g contains around 20 calories. It contains around 35% of daily dietary requirement of Vitamin C, 5% of Vitamin A, 7% of Vitamin K, 14% of Vitamin B6, 10% of Riboflavin and 9% of Folate. It also provides 11% of daily requirement of Manganese and 9% of Potassium. Zucchini also contains carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which helps prevent cataracts and degeneration of eye tissues. (source : http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2639/2) It is considered filling food at the same time being nutritious, a perfect for salad or weight loss diet.
Antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties of Zucchini
Though Zucchini has been used for various culinary purposes, it is only recent studies which have documented health benefits and medicinal value of Zucchini. High Vitamin C and beta carotene content in Zucchini makes it powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C is also responsible for anti inflammatory properties and related health benefits. Zucchini is believed to be beneficial in promoting health of heart and prevent heart related diseases. Zucchini contains health supportive carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are good for eye as they help prevent cataract and other eye diseases. For these health benefits of zucchini it is recommended to eat zucchini to sharpen vision and reduce bad effects of stress on eye.
Zucchini ranks high on nutrition, low on calorie and still is stomach filling. This makes Zucchini ideal as salad and for weight loss diet.
Zucchini contains useful folate, potassium and manganese which are essential for proper functioning of the body. Managanese is essential for healthy bone structure, building of essential enzymes for development of bones and bone metabolism. It acts as enzyme in body metabolism. Apart from these other health benefits of manganese include development of connective tissue, enzyme in calcium absorption, proper functioning of thyroid and sex harmones, regulate body sugar and others.
Seeds of Zucchini are known for various health benefits
They have been used for various purpose for anti microbial and anti parasitic properties. It is because of these health benefits of Zucchini seeds for treatment of intestinal tapeworms and other intestinal parasites. Folk medicines also use Zucchini and other summer squash seeds for treatment on prostrate enlargement. They are used to help reduce frequency of urination.
Other health benefits of zucchini also include anti aging properties. With rich anti oxidants attributed by Vitamin C and Vitamin A, they help improve memory and reduce aging.
Harmful effects of zucchini
Zucchini and other summer squash contains measurable quantity of oxalates. These natural substance are known to accumulate in body and interfere with body functioning. Oxalates crystallize and create kidney and gall bladder problems, as they interfere with absorption of calcium.
Very rare, but zucchini are responsible for food allergy to some people .Pollen related allergens have attributed for allergies caused by Zucchini. (Reference: Allergy – Volume 57, Issue Supplement s72, Article first published online: 29 JUL 2002)
Study has also found that cooking methods like boiling, frying, pressure cooking and microwave reduces health benefits of zucchini as they result in around 50% loss of its anti oxidant properties. (Journal of Food Science Volume 74, Issue 3, pages H97–H103, April 2009)
Shop Zucchini products – Zucchini Extract
Zucchini Art: Apart from health benefits of zucchini, zucchini has been used as item of art. Zucchini also used in garnishing of food. Various art forms using Zucchini can be found here.
Find various recipes of zucchini – Zucchini pancakes, Zucchini cake, zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini here