Amazingly, scientists have found squash seeds (from the genus-species Cucurbita pepo, which includes summer squash) preserved in Mexican caves for more than 10,000 years! It was that long ago when domestication of summer squash originated in Mexico and Central America. Cultivation of squashes (including summer squash) quickly became popular in North, Central, and South America. Squashes were one of the foods that Columbus brought back to Spain from North America, and Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced different kinds of squashes to many parts of the world.
Generally, zucchini grows on bushy plants. Most commonly it bears cylindrical fruit, but new cultivars include round and intermediate shapes.
Fruit color varies; from yellow tones to greens so dark they are nearly black. Many have speckles and/or stripes.
Squash plants produce male and female flowers on the same plant. The female squash flower has a miniature fruit at its base and is borne on a short stem.
The male flower can be identified by its long slender stem and a stamen in the flower’s center that provides pollen necessary to the development of fruit. If you look closely inside male and female flowers set side by side, you can easily see which is male and which is female.
While not often considered as a premiere food source of antioxidants, zucchini and summer squash can provide you with unique amounts of antioxidant nutrients, including the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. While summer squash contains very little overall fat (only 1/2 gram per cup), the fat in summer squash (mostly stored in its edible seeds) is unique in composition and includes omega-3s (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid), monounsaturates (in the form of oleic acid), and also medium chain fats (in the form of lauric and myristic acids).
Summer squash is an excellent source of copper and manganese. It is a very good source of vitamin C, magnesium, dietary fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. Additionally, it is a good source of vitamin B1, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, choline, and protein.
Zucchini is low in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and is a great source of dietary fiber.
Apart from being made into a delicious and savory dish, zucchini is beneficial for your health in a variety of ways, thanks to the vitamins and minerals contained in even a small serving of this vegetable. Some of the health benefits of Zucchini vegetable are as follows.
One cup of zucchini has approximately 35 calories and 10% of the RDA of dietary fiber which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar and curbs overeating. Here are some of zucchini and yellow squash health benefits:
- Beneficial in Diabetes
- Cancer Prevention
- Good Source of Magnesium
- Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention
- Helps to cure asthma as it contains Vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Helps to Lose Weight
- Helps to prevent diseases, like scurvy, bruising etc, caused by the deficiency of Vitamin C.
- High in Manganese
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Lowers Cholesterol
- Maintains Eye Health
- Maintains Optimal Health
- Prevents Gout
- Promotes Prostate Health
- Regular intake effectively lowers high homocysteine levels
- Aids in Collagen Formation
- Anti-ageing Benefits
- Benefits the Hair and Promotes Hair Growth
- Hydrates your Skin
- Treatment of Puffy Eyes
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Zucchinis can be available all year, but they are at their best during late spring and summer seasons.
In the stores, choose small to medium-sized zucchini featuring shiny, bright green skin, firm and heavy for their size. The best size for zucchini is 6 to 8 inches length and 2 inches or less in diameter. Some big sized varieties are specially grown for stuffing. There is no problem with minor superficial scratches and mild bruises oftentimes seen on their surface.
Avoid overly mature, large ones with pitted skin, and those with spongy textured. Furthermore, avoid those with soft and wrinkled ends. Go for organically grown products to get rich flavor and high nutrient content.
Although zucchini and summer squash are best eaten when fresh, it can be canned or frozen. Freshly harvested produce can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks.
To Freeze: Shred unpeeled zucchini. Drain in a colander, and then pat dry with paper towel applying pressure to remove as much moisture as possible. Place 1 or 2 cups of zucchini in freezer bags and seal tightly. Frozen zucchini lasts about 3 months.
NOTE: When buying the green kind of zucchini, the darker, the greater the nutrients and mineral contents.
PREPRARTION AND SERVING METHODS
Wash summer squash under cool running water and then cut off both ends. You can then proceed to cut it into the desired size and shape for the particular recipe.
Here are some serving tips:
- Fine-sections, chopped or grated, it can be shredded into bread, pizza, etc.
- Fresh, tender zucchini can be eaten raw in salads or sandwiches.
- It mixes well with eggs, potatoes, carrots, asparagus, green beans, etc.
- Serve raw summer squash with your favorite dips.
- Stuff zucchini with your favorite veggie mix and top it with tomato sauce.
- The pods can be used fried, baked, steamed, boiled, or used in stuffing.
- Zucchini Quesadillas makes a fantastic and delicious meal
- Zucchini-Pecan Flaxseed Bread is absolutely delicious
Summer squash is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating summer squash.