Summertime means an abundance of summer squash, our favorite of which is the zucchini because of its versatility, nutrition, and yummy flavor. It is low in calories and can be eaten a variety of ways. Though it is called a vegetable, zucchini is technically a fruit because it comes from a flower. The zucchini blossom is also a culinary treat, often served fried or stuffed.
Inhabitants of Central and South America have been eating zucchini for several thousand years, but the zucchini we know today is a variety of summer squash developed in Italy. The Italians are said to have introduced it to North America in the 1920’s. In fact, the word “zucchini” comes from the Italian word for squash, zucca. The term “squash” comes from the Indian skutasquash meaning “green thing eaten green.” Christopher Columbus originally brought seeds to the Mediterranean region and Africa. Zucchini is also known as “courgette”in French while the British call it “vegetable marrow” and South Africans call it “baby marrow.” It belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo which includes melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers. The skin color can vary from light to dark green and there is even a yellow strain that can often be confused with yellow squash. The way to tell the difference is in the shape. A yellow summer squash will taper into a neck shape at one end. Zucchinis are pretty evenly cylindrical from end to end.
Zucchini is high in potassium. In fact, it contains more potassium than a banana. It is also high in vitamin C and manganese. It helps to control asthma and blood pressure, improve eye health, lower cholesterol, and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the skin and seeds. It has a soothing nature and a diuretic effect which makes it useful in treating gastritis, indigestion, colitis, and IBS.