Food & Nutrition

The Ultimate Guide To Zucchini

Summer is right around the corner, so naturally, this month’s Produce Spotlight will showcase a warm-weather favorite: Zucchini! Read on for tips to grow zucchini in your garden, answer frequently asked questions, share our best recipes, and more.

six medium, deep green zucchinis on a light colored table

Table of contents

Origin and Growing Information

The species cucurbita pepo, better known as zucchini or courgette. These plants are primarily grown for the consumption of it’s immature seeds – what we recognize as a zucchini, however, the flowers and leaves are edible as well. 

Zucchini is actually a fruit since it develops from the ovaries of a flowering plant. It is native to Central America and Mexico, and is commonly grown in the US during warmer months.

Planting Conditions

  • The plants prefer warm weather, typically hardiness zones 3-9. Look at this USDA map to determine your region’s zone. 
  • Soil must remain over 55 °F 
  • Plant’s prefer full sun with soil that will remain moist, but not waterlogged

Growing

  • In order to grow, plants need 36 inches of space between them
  • Sow 1-2 seeds directly into the soil, about 1 inch deep
  • 1-2 deep waterings are better than multiple light waterings. A good rule of thumb is 1-2 times per week, and more if the climate is hot and dry.

Harvesting

Plants grow quickly. After flowering, they will be ready to harvest in just 4-8 days. It is important to not wait too long, or else the squash will overmature and take up the plants energy which could be used to produce more fruit. 

Using a knife or shears, carefully harvest the fruits. You can also twist them off if small enough but be sure to wear gloves! 

Discover more tips for growing from The Old Farmer’s Almanac and University of Illinois Extension.

Types of Zucchini

Both open-pollinated and hybrid varieties of zucchinis are grown. The farmers at High Mowing Seeds shared insight on the topic.  

Open-pollinated plants, when isolated, remain true to type. These seeds can be easily preserved for seasons to continuously produce the same crop. Hybrids are created by “modern plant breeding.” It is the cross-pollination of different varieties.

Open Pollinated Varieties

  • Black Beauty: 7-8” glossy green plants, 110 days
  • Cocozelle: 8-10” green plants with dark green streaks, 50 days
  • Fordhook: 6-8” spotted green plants, 57 days

Hybrid Varieties

  • Raven: 6-8” deep green, 48 days
  • Gourmet Gold: 6-8”, bright yellow, 55 days 
  • Summer Green Tiger: 8” light green with bold dark green stripes, 55-60 days

Discover an extensive list of varieties and characteristics at Grow It Organically.

Nutrition Information

Zucchini coins and one whole green zucchini on a dark table.

Health Highlights

  • The fruits are rich in Vitamin C.
  • 1 medium zucchini has only 33 calories, based on USDA nutrition data 
  • They have antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin
  • They are full of fiber
  • They are a good source of Potassium 

Raw vs. Cooked

Zucchini is safe to eat raw or cooked. Like other squashes is also more nutritious when cooked. Cooking will, however, soften the texture which some people prefer.

While using zucchini can increase fiber, vitamin and mineral content and offset more calorie dense ingredients in baked goods such as zucchini bread or muffins, it does not inherently make them healthy. It is important to look at the entire ingredient list and nutritional analysis to determine overall nutritional value.

Zucchini FAQs

Why do zucchini plant leaves turn yellow or white?

Yellowing leaves are the culprit of poor soil. White spots may be powdery mildew that’s reached the plant. If your zucchini plants are too close together, air cannot properly circulate and the leaves may grow mildew.

Can I eat zucchini if I follow a specific diet?

Whether you have a paleo, KETO, Whole 30, or low FODMAP eating pattern, Zucchini can be on your list of produce options. It is primarily made of water, making it low carb and easy to digest, raw or cooked.

What is the difference between zucchini and summer squash? How about cucumber?

Zucchini and Summer squash are in the same fruit family. The two are very similar in texture, taste and nutritional value and the main differences are shape and color. It is easy to swap one for the other in recipes. Cucumber, on the other hand, looks strikingly similar to zucchini, however, they differ in taste and texture, and should not be swapped in recipes.

Does zucchini have to be peeled?

No the skin of zucchini is quite thin, tender and edible. No need to peel it before cooking with it.

Cooking Information

Zucchini is one of those chameleon ingredients (like cauliflower) that can make itself useful in a variety of ways. It can be eaten raw or cooked and is fairly neutral in flavor so it can be adapted for a wide variety of cuisine flavor pairings.

Cooking Zucchini Blossoms

It is an Italian tradition to harvest the blossoms from zucchini plants as soon asthey start to fruit. This doesn’t affect the growth of the zuccchini squash itself and makes a tender and delicately flavored edible.

Every summer we enjoy buying a quantity of zucchini blossoms at the Farmers’ Market, stuffing them with cheese (and sometimes anchovies), battering them and frying them. Try these from the New York Times.

Shredded Zucchini

When shredded zucchini adds low calorie bulk and moisture to baked goods, and meatloaf.

Raw Shaved or Zoodles

Zucchini can be shaved with a vegetable peeler or cut with a spiralizer for an low-carb alternative to pasta or as a salad base.

Cut the ends and blossom end from the zucchini and cut with the spiralizer or shave lengthwise with a sharp veggie peeler. Note that zucchini noodles can end up being very long and will need to be trimmed with scissors or a knife.

Cooking Zucchini

Zucchini can be tricky to cook because it can overcook very easily. It also has a high water content, so it doesn’t brown very easily. It can let off a lot of liquid as it cooks too. We find that cooking it very hot and fast is the best way to preserve texture and achieve a little browning.

Freezing Zucchini

If you grow zucchini then you will likely have more than you can handle. It can be frozen but before you do, make sure to blanch it briefly before you freeze it. This will stop any enzymatic activity and prevent the nutrients from continuing to slowly break down.

Once it is blanched dry it thoroughly and lay slices out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Freeze solid and then transfer to ziplock bags. Freeze up to two months.

Recipes

Source: healthyseasonalrecipes.com

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