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Seasonal shoutout Zucchini

Zucchini is in season, so now is the time to be throwing it into your salads, stir fries and stews. Here’s everything you need to know about this little green fruit...

Inventing itThe zucchini is part of the squash family, which originated in the Americas. The first records of actual zucchini in the US date to the early 1920s, but it’s widely believed that it was developed near Milan and brought over by Italian immigrants. The name ‘zucchini’ comes from the Italian word for squash, but it’s also known as a ‘courgette’ (from le French word for le fruit).

Growing itZucchini is easy to grow yourself if you follow these tips: -Grow seeds in trays initially, before planting them in soil a month later. -Space plants 50 to 90cm apart at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. -Make sure soil temperature is between 21°C and 35°C. -Harvest flowers regularly to stop them getting out of control. -Harvest zucchini in six to nine weeks and the plant will keep producing. -Grow near compatible plants such as corn, parsley, silverbeet and tomatoes, but avoid growing near potatoes.

Buying itWhen choosing a zucchini at the market or shops, make sure that it is no longer than six inches in length and one to two inches in diameter. It should have firm and shiny skin and at least one inch of stem attached. Avoid longer or larger zucchini with cuts or blemishes. Storing itZucchini can be stored in a plastic bag in your crisper for about three days, after which it will be prone to chilling damage.  To freeze, slice into circles, boil for two minutes, drain and seal in an airtight bag before freezing.

Cooking itZucchini is one of the most versatile fruits around! It can be tossed into a salad in raw ribbons, sliced in a stir fry, baked into bread, added to pasta dishes, roasted with other Mediterranean veg or marinated for antipasto. Here are a few dishes that use zucchini: -‘Fiori di zucca’ – zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and deep fried in tempura batter. -‘Ratatouille’ – a slow-cooked French stew of summer fruits. -‘Mucver’ – Turkish pancakes made from zucchini, flour and eggs and served with yogurt.

Eating itThis green fruit has a very fresh and delicate flavour, great grilled just with olive oil and seasoning but happy to take on other flavours. It’s also low in calories and contains folates (good for pregnant women), potassium (heart and blood pressure) and vitamin A (eyesight).