Common name: Zucchini, Courgette, Baby marrow, Summer squash
There are many variants of squashes belonging to the Cucurbita family under the botanical name, Cucurbita pepo. Zucchini plants can grow to a height of 80-100 cm with a beautiful rosette-like base that produces leaves, flowers, and fruits all from a short stump of a stem.
Leaf petioles are thick and long with large, palmate leaves that are about 20 cm in length. These leaves are multi-lobed with serrations along the edges. Zucchini leaves also contain small white hairs called trichomes.
Zucchini plants produce male and female flowers on the same plant, both of them yellow and large. Female flowers are seen at the tip of the growing Zucchinis, which are actually enlarged reproductive organs of the flowers. Male flowers are produced directly on the stem, slightly smaller than the female flowers.
These bright, beautiful flowers attract bees and insects that help pollinate them. Fruits are mostly green in color, though there are variants with golden-yellow and variegated fruits as well.
Mature Zucchini fruits can grow up to a meter long, though most fruits are harvested when they are 15-20 cm long with immature seeds. These fruits can be eaten raw, but some variants might have toxic cucurbitacins.
Cultivated Zucchinis are safe to be eaten raw, or can be added to soups and salads. They can be steam, boiled, grilled, barbecued, or added to breads, cakes, meat dishes, and stews.
Zucchini flowers are a delicacy, eaten deep-fried in a tempura batter often stuffed with cheese, dry fruits, even rice. Zucchini is used in pasta, pizza, ratatouille, quesadillas, stir fries, pancakes, and in many other recipes making them a very versatile and much-loved vegetable world over.
This wonderful vegetable contains many micro-nutrients and very little fat or carbohydrates making them ideal for weight loss. They are high in antioxidants benefitting eyes, skin, and the heart, in addition to having antiviral and antimicrobial properties. High levels of fibers present in Zucchini helps in easier digestion promoting gut health.
Zucchini plants are very easy to cultivate in kitchen gardens, often overwhelming gardeners with too many fruits. They grow very fast producing fruits with 1-1.5 months after seeding. Make sure that the fruits are harvested when they are immature. Otherwise, they will become hard and bitter, and develop a thick skin.
One or two fruits can be left on the plant for seeds for the next growing season. These plants grow well in temperate climate, though they cannot tolerate frost and snow.
Propagation is from seeds.