Zucchini is a tasty and versatile vegetable that belongs to the squash family. In some parts of the world, including Great Britain, the zucchini is known by the name 'courgette'. This healthy vegetable with lots of health benefits and vitamins. It is one of the most commonly used and most popular members of the squash family as it one of the easiest to prepare and cook.
Zucchini is similar is in size and shape to small cucumbers - not usually measuring longer than 6 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. This vegetable is considered to be a summer squash - curcurbita pepo.
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The zucchini has smooth, rich green skin which is firm to the touch. The flesh is pale green and firm. Zucchinis are closely related to marrows, and can in fact, be described as immature marrows - they will grow into marrows if left.

Cooked zucchini is delicious, the flesh is tender and has a very distinctive flavor. This healthy vegetable is available all year round, although their main seasons are May to August time; zucchini plants are an excellent choice to grow as the more zucchinis that are cut, the more that will grow! This particular vegetable is often referred to as a member of the summer squashes.

The benefits of zucchini are high as this particular squash vegetable provides high nutritional value as it's packed full of important vitamins and nutrients. Zucchini provides vitamins A, C and B6 as well as essential nutrients including iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

This vegetable can contribute greatly towards a healthy, controlled diet and it can benefit your lifestyle as zucchini health benefits include maintaining a healthy, strong immune system which helps to ward of unwanted illnesses.

The summer squash vegetable, zucchini is low in calories and can form a healthy part of a calorie controlled diet. The amount of calories and carbs in zucchini depends on the way that it is cooked, for example if the zucchini is fried, roasted, stewed, baked, stir-fried, steamed or boiled.

The following calorie guide can be used to calculate the amount of carbohydrates and calories in zucchini:

Carbohydrates and Calories per 100 grams:
Zucchini raw with skin - 17 calories zucchinis / 3.1g carbs

Picking and Storing Zucchini
When selecting zucchini, try to buy the smallest ones available and always check the condition of the skin - look for zucchinis without blemishes or marks, and remember that the skin of this vegetable should be smooth, healthy and slightly glossy, and attached to a fresh looking stem. The zucchini should feel firm, and shouldn't be limp at all. Store in a plastic bag, in the refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 days.

Varieties of Zucchini
There are lots of different types of zucchini. The following information is about some of the most popular varieties that we use in everyday cooking and recipes:

Baby zucchini: The flesh is firm and this particular variety is practically seedless. Baby courgettes are ideal for pickling as well as other cooking methods. They do not take long to cook and can actually be steamed or blanched whole.

Green zucchini: these are the usual types that we most commonly use in recipes. Green zucchini has deep green, smooth, glossy skin and is attached to a green stem which is around 1 inch, or more, long. This type of courgette is very versatile as it can be cooked in many different ways including roasted, grilled, steamed, baked, boiled and fried.

Yellow zucchini: The yellow courgette is very similar to the green courgettes in flavor and size, however, they are usually a little straighter! The skin is bright yellow and the flesh is normally firmer. The stems are green.

Italian zucchini: This variety is cooked in the same way as standard zucchinis, however, they are a bottle gourd. Italian zucchini is green but they are very long and thin. As the name suggests, they are cultivated in Italy!

Preparing Zucchini for Cooking
When preparing zucchini for cooking, wash the zucchini well under cold running water. The preparation part is very simple for this vegetable as it is easy to handle and cut. Once you have washed the zucchini, cut off a small amount from either end - top and tail.

Chop the zucchini according to the recipe - either slice or or slit for stuffing. Zucchini is becoming increasingly popular and there are lots of recipes with zucchini available these days to try such as soups, roasted and grilled recipes.

Freeze Zucchini
Zucchini can be frozen and it is very easy to do so! Simply blanch the zucchini slices for two minutes, then plunge them immediately into cold water. Drain the slices then place in an airtight container, before storing in the freezer.

Frying Zucchini
Fried zucchini is very nice and makes a delicious accompaniment to a meal alongside other vegetables. Zucchini tends to absorb a fair amount of liquid so try slicing it quite thickly - around half an inch wide, and fry the slices in a little oil.

Keep the heat turned down fairly low to prevent your zucchini from burning. If the heat is too high, the zucchini may not be tender enough on the inside for your liking!

Roasting Zucchini
As zucchini tends to absorb a lot of liquid during the cooking process, try slicing the vegetable quite thickly - around half an inch (the slices can be halved again to help them to cook more quickly). Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a roasting tray - avoid using too much oil as this can make vegetables soggy and delay the overall cooking time. Add the zucchini slices to the oil and place in a preheated oven at approximately 180-190 degrees. Give the tray a shake once or twice during the cooking process to ensure the zucchini cooks evenly, and to prevent it from burning. Check after approximately 20 minutes. Zucchini compliments other vegetables really well, particularly peppers, aubergine and onion. Try roasting a selection together for a really healthy and delicious option. Try adding crushed garlic for a delicious, fuller flavor.

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