The Zucchini squash has a uniformly cylindrical shape with little to no taper from its stem to blossom end. It can be harvested when it is at its baby stage or when more mature at up to six to eight inches long. Many growers and chefs note that Zucchini will be at its peak flavor and texture when five to six inches in length. The exterior glossy skin of the Zucchini is vibrant to dark green in color and delicate enough to consume. Summer squash such as Zucchini are harvested when immature for best flavor, as a result their skin is delicate and prone to easily bruising and scratching. Its flesh is creamy white in color with a spongy yet firm texture and faint traces of edible seeds. It offers a sweet summer squash flavor with nuances of black peppercorn and nutty undertones. In addition to the fruit of the Zucchini plant the flower blossoms of Zucchini are also edible and offer a mild, squash like flavor.
Originally grown as a summer vegetable, Zucchini squash is suitable to forced cultivation in temperate climates and is available for harvest year-round.
Zucchini is a classic summer squash and botanically a member of Cucurbita pepo. Today it is easily the most popularly grown and consumed of all summer squashes. There are numerous Zucchini varieties on the market today with independent names and characteristics. Zucchini can also be harvested at varying stages of maturity, when petite and at its baby stage of growth or when slightly more mature and medium sized. Fully mature Zucchini that are large with hardened skin have not developed much of a place in the commercial marketplace as their flavor and texture at this stage are not preferable for culinary applications. In the culinary context, Zucchini is treated as a vegetable. Botanically, however, the Zucchini is identified as the swollen fruit that stems from the female Zucchini flower.
Zucchini squash are a low caloric food and are nearly 94% water. Additionally they offer some vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.
Zucchini squash are mild in flavor, extremely versatile and can be prepared in sweet or savory recipes. Grate Zucchini and add squash to muffin or bread batter, or use to make vegetable pancakes and fritters. Thinly sliced Zucchini works well in salads or as part of a fresh (raw) appetizer such as vegetarian carpaccio. When sliced thinly lengthwise Zucchini squash can be an excellent substitute for conventional noodles in pasta preparations. Sliced Zucchini squash can be grilled, steamed, sautéed or battered and fried. Larger more mature squashes are perfectly sized for hollowing and baking when stuffed with meats, cheeses and grains. The Zucchini blossoms additionally can be stuffed with soft cheeses and herbs then battered and fried. The flavor and texture of Zucchini will complement a variety of ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, corn, eggplant, fresh herbs such as parsley, basil and oregano, olive oil, pine nuts, eggs, citrus juice, sausage, roasted chicken and cheeses such as ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan. Zucchini squash will keep best when kept dry and refrigerated, for one to two weeks.