Everything you need to know about your favorite summer squash, zucchini! Varieties, how to buy it, how to store it, and nutrition information.
It’s safe to say, summer is here. And with summer comes everyone’s favorite summer squash…zucchini!
As with just about every other “vegetable” that has been an Ingredient of the Week here on Live Eat Learn, it’s not actually a vegetable. It’s a fruit. Like do real vegetables even exist? Ugh.
Zucchini fact time! Did you know they can grow to be REALLY BIG? The biggest zucchini ever recorded was 7 feet 10 inches! If left to its own accord, your average zucchini would grow to be as big as a baseball bat. But it wouldn’t taste so swell. Bigger zucchinis are tough and fibrous, so we pick them when they’re small (about 7 to 9 inches). Oh, also! They have a big, golden flower that’s edible (you know how I love edible flowers).
And everyone likes themselves some food history right? Well, all squash plants originate in the Americas. When Europeans discovered these starchy plants, they brought them back home and started growing and cultivating them there. It was in Italy that the modern day zucchini finally came to be, where it was dubbed zucchino (little squash). The zucchini made its way back to America in the 1920s, where it was ignored by the average consumer for about 50 years. Poor zucchini. But it’s okay, we’ve got an entire two weeks of zucchini recipes dedicated just to you, zucchini!
How to buy good zucchini
Zucchini grows best in temperate climates…not too hot, not too cold. While you can get it just about year-round, they’re out in full force during the summer months.
As I mentioned earlier, bigger is not always better when it comes to zucchini. Generally, smaller zucchinis are less bitter, have softer seeds, and thinner skins. You’ll want to choose one with smooth skin that’s blemishes-free.
Types of zucchini
There aren’t many variations of zucchini, probably because anything varying far from your everyday zucchini gets classified as another type of squash. The breakdown is pretty simple:
- Black Beauty: These are the most common kind of zucchini (and what is pictured in these images)!
- Gourmet Gold: Similar in taste and texture to the standard green zucchini, but sunshine yellow!
- Globe Zucchini (aka Round or 8-Ball Zuchhini): This round, softball-sized variety is great for stuffing. Just scoop out the insides, stuff, and roast!
How to store zucchini
Be gentle! Small nicks and scratches in the skin can cause your zucchini to deteriorate more quickly.
Fresh zucchini can be stored for about 1 to 2 weeks if kept dry and cool in your refrigerator. You can also freeze zucchini by chopping it into slices, steaming or boiling for about 3 minutes, then placing it in an airtight container. Frozen zucchini is good for about a year.
Cucumber vs. Zucchini
Ever get confused about the difference between cucumber and zucchini? You’re not alone!
- Appearance: You can tell the difference between cucumber and zucchini because zucchini have a woody stem. Cucumber don’t have this stem, and are more waxy.
- Taste: Cucumber have a cooling crunchy flavor that can be enjoyed raw, where zucchini should almost always be cooked.
Zucchini nutrition information
(per 1 large (323g) zucchini, raw, with skin) Note: Leave the skin on the zucchini! It contains a bulk of the nutrients, especially Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and fiber.
- Calories: 52
- Carbohydrates: 11g
- Fiber: 4g, 14% Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 4g
- Fat: 1g
- 92% DV of Vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant to fight against potentially damaging free radicals (molecules with unshared electrons that float around wreaking havoc) and an important cofactor in collagen synthesis.
- 35% DV of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): A water-soluble vitamin that works behind the scenes as a coenzyme in many important reactions within your body, including protein metabolism and red blood cell formation, among countless other functions.
- 28% DV of Manganese: A trace element that plays a role in healthy brain and nervous system function.
- 27% DV of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): A water-soluble vitamin that acts as a component of FAD to help your body break down macronutrients in the electron transport chain, creating usable energy.
- 24% DV of Potassium: A key mineral and electrolyte involved in countless processes, including healthy nervous system functioning and contraction of the heart and muscles.
- 23% DV of Folate (Vitamin B9): A water-soluble vitamin that helps make DNA & RNA and metabolize amino acids.
- 17% DV of Vitamin K: A fat-soluble vitamin that allows for activation of enzymes in the clotting cascade, which is responsible for blood clotting. Also builds bone by modifying osteocalcin so that it may bind calcium, thus building the bone matrix.
- 13% DV of Vitamin A: Provides the provitamin version of this fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it comes from a plant source and your body converts the plant pigment into active Vitamin A. It is essential in many components of healthy vision, as well as immunity and cell growth/differentiation.
- 10% DV of Thiamin (Vitamin B1): A water-soluble vitamin that turns your food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose). People at risk for deficiency include those with Crohn’s Disease, alcoholics, and those undergoing kidney dialysis.