Summer’s only just begun, and it’s already apparent that this year’s zucchini harvest is going to be a bumper crop.
It’s not like I’m new at this. I know how madly prolific these gorgeous green vegetables can be, yet I can’t seem to pull out plants that are so eager to flourish, produce and yield copious amounts of fruit.
Now, instead of thinning plants I’m dusting off my favorite recipes in anticipation of the abundance to come.
So, if you’re like me and grow waaay too much, or have a neighbourhood “zucchini lady” that you know is going to come knocking later in the summer, here’s a closer look at this sweet and unique summer vegetable.
It has many nutritional benefits for our health and well being, can be cooked and eaten in multiple ways, and is, of course, one of the easiest vegetables to grow in the home garden.
And at the end of the post, there’s an “idea” section along with 11 (or more) different uses for our favorite prolific plant.
Zucchini (a.k.a. courgette) is a member of the squash family and belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo.
Her close cousins include edible pumpkins and other squashes such as butternut, spaghetti, and acorn, as well as gourds that are used primarily for making utensils, dishes or bowls.
It can be light in color, almost white, or dark green in hue and it also has a hybrid cousin, the golden zucchini, which is a deep gold or orange color.
Although both summer and winter squashes are grown in the warm months, summer squash (zucchini, pattypan, crookneck, zucchetta and yellow summer squash) should be eaten when the skin is still soft and tender, and the seeds are immature.
Winter squash (pumpkins, butternut, acorn, spaghetti, etc.) are allowed to remain on the vine until the rind is hard and the seeds have matured. These hard rinds allow the squash to be stored, with care, into the winter months for later consumption.
Zucchini have large and beautiful golden blossoms, edible and tasty in their own right, and they are often used to dress a plate or as a garnish for the prepared courgette itself.
They’re often deep fried as fritters or lightly coated with a tempura batter, and can be stuffed, baked, sautéed or used in soups and stews.
Interested in learning more about the many varieties available to you? Read all about the differences between zucchini and summer squash.
In the kitchen, zucchini is treated as a vegetable. The manner in which they’re cooked and the customary presentation is usually as an ingredient in a savory dish, or as a veggie served on the side. But to the botanist, zucchini, along with her squash and pumpkin cousins, are technically fruit.
And, like all members of the cucurbita clan, this type of produce has its roots in Mesoamerica. There, Native Americans considered them to be one of the “three sisters,” along with corn and beans as the other members of the trio.
Today’s varieties are considerably different than their ancestors, with the modern version being developed in Italy in the late 1800’s, after its introduction from the New World.
In nutritional content, zucchini is low in calories with only 15 per 2/3 cup (100 grams), with significant amounts of folate, potassium and vitamin A.
Zucchini is a very low calorie vegetables, and it contains zero saturated fat and no cholesterol. The peel is a good source of dietary fiber that aids digestive tract health, and offers some protection against colon cancers.
They also have some antioxidant value, with a rating of 180 on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale. Of course, their antioxidant capacity is below that of some berries and anthocyanin-rich vegetables.
However, they’re also one of the more common vegetables that dieticians will include in weight reduction and cholesterol control programs.
Zucchini is also rich in flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin, particularly the golden-skinned varieties. These compounds are needed to pick up destructive free radicals and prevent their contribution to aging and various disease processes.
Courgettes have moderate levels of folates, which are important for cell division and DNA processes.
They’re a good source of potassium, which is important for intra-cellular electrolyte function, and helps in the reduction of blood pressure levels.
Zucchini is rich in vitamin A, and provides about 200 IU per 2/3 cup. It’s ;a good source of antioxidant vitamin C, and provides about 30% of daily values per 2/3 cup.
They also contain moderate levels of the B vitamin group like thiamin, pyridoxine, and riboflavin, and the minerals iron, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.
Selection and Storage
In the market, select small to medium sized squash with a vibrant, bright green, gold, or pale green skin that ;feels firm to touch, with a nice heft in the hand.
To ensure tenderness, the ideal size is approximately 6-8 inches, with a diameter of 2 inches or less. While small nicks and scratches on the soft rind are not unusual and don’t affect the taste, avoid ones with scarred or pitted skin or that feel lightweight and spongy.
And while growing jumbo courgettes might be fun, extra-large and overly mature fruit should be avoided. They’ll have an abundance of ripe seeds and the flesh may be fibrous – pithy, woody or stringy.
Any fruit with crinkled or pulpy ends has been around too long and has lost its inner moisture, leaving it spongy or woody.
And as always, chose organically grown produce whenever possible for optimal health benefits.
At home, wait to wash until you’re ready to cook these squash, ;as excess moisture will speed decay. Store cut vegetables in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge.
Unlike their thicker skinned winter squash cousins, zucchini have a delicate rind that can be damaged easily… so handle with care! Wash well in cold, running water just prior to cooking and trim both the stem and flower ends.
Peeling isn’t necessary or advised as a lot of the nutritional benefits, antioxidant properties and fiber are found in the skin.
A Myriad of Cooking Methods
A versatile ingredient, tender summer squash can be eaten in so many ways:
- Cut young, tender courgettes into cubes or spirals, or julienne for salads.
- They can be baked, battered and fried, boiled, frozen, grilled, juiced, pureed, steamed and stuffed.
- A basic in mixed medleys of summer vegetables, they work well with asparagus, carrots, corn, green beans, onions, peppers and potatoes.
- Have a late bumper crop? Chop them up and throw them into a root vegetable roast with other tasty gems of fall: such as potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, turnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, and winter radishes.
- Zucchini add flavor, body and texture to soups, stews, stir fries, casseroles, sabzi, tagines and curries.
- A fine ingredient for baking, they find their way into breads, muffins, bagels, pancakes, crepes, frittatas, tarts, and quiches, too.
- Summer squash can also be preserved, canned and pickled, or made into chutney, jam, jelly or marmalade.
- Frozen, it maintains its antioxidant properties very well. Par-steam sliced pieces for three minutes before freezing in a single layer on a baking sheet. When frozen, seal in airtight containers for up to three months.
11 Tasty Ideas
1. For an appetizer, cut zucchini into thin rounds and top your favorite ingredient pairings: pesto and feta, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, or pecans and blue cheese are good choices. And of course, stuffing the fruit is always a great treat and it has visual appeal for those special meals.
2. Cube tender courgettes and add to any tossed salad, or use a spiralizer or peeler to cut long, thin strips and marinade in a sweet brine for a crisp side salad.
3. Grilled as a side dish, these green vegetables add taste and color to barbecues:
- Cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half lengthwise into equal slices.
- Brush both sides with an herbed vinaigrette and grill for about four minutes.
- Turn, grill on the other size for two minutes, then sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and grill another few minutes, or until the cheese is golden.
4. Make a serving of deep-fried zucchini fries for a crunchy and tasty snack or side dish.
Deep-Fried Zucchini Fries – Get the Recipe Now
5. Make a batch of zesty marmalade if you’ve got a surplus – try it with just citrus alone, or add some heat with hot peppers and ginger.
It has a rich, tangy taste and doubles as a great gift, so make enough for family and friends.
6. A tangy chutney is another savory option. Add cubed courgettes, tart apple and pimentos to your favorite recipe for a sweet and savory relish.
7. Juice some zucchini with apples, celery, carrots, beets and ginger plus a dash of hot sauce and seasonings for a refreshing and energizing drink – superb served over ice on a hot summer day.
8. Bake it casserole-style, sliced and arranged in layers with tomatoes, eggplant and sweet onion, then topped with panko breadcrumbs for a vegetarian entrée or side dish.
9. Make a pizza topped with thin slices of zucchini, asparagus, sweet onion, artichoke, and slivers of Asiago cheese for a healthy snack or light summer meal.
Gluten-Free Pizza with Zucchini and Caramelized Onions
10. Bake up a vegetarian zucchini lasagna with other garden fresh goodies like spinach, corn, carrots, onions, green beans and basil. Add layers of noodles and cottage cheese, and top with Parmesan for a tasty, meatless meal.
11. And of course, no recipe list would be complete without zucchini bread. Easy to make and always moist, double up and make a few batches for the freezer, or prepare muffins for snacks and lunch boxes.
Healthy and Delicious Zucchini Bread
That’s the end of our look at the marvelous zucchini.
Keep an eye out for fresh squash in your neighborhood farmers market, grocery store or garden this summer, and try some of our ideas for different ways to enjoy its goodness.
The staff at Foodal are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet.
Photo credits: Shutterstock.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.
39 thoughts on “Too Much Zucchini? 11 Tasty Ideas for Summer Squash”
I would never have thought to juice zucchini. I don’t have a juicer so could I just blend it into a smoothie instead of juicing?
Also when I have had too much to use at any given time, I have just grated it with a cheese grater and frozen it in 1-2 cup portions to dump into pasta sauce, cake, pancakes, or soup.
A smoothie should work, although I’ve never tried it myself… per-measured portions in the freezer are very handy, great for stews and stir-fries too.
Lovely ways to use up any summer squash. Juicing it is a new one for me. I also liked the tips on how to buy the fruit so I know what to expect the next time I see them in a grocery store. To me, those flowers are very pretty to look at.
They are very lovely blossoms, and glad you enjoyed the tips.
I once had an amazing zucchini chocolate cake that was super moist and had a uniquely wonderful flavor. I have looked online for a recipe of this type but never found anything that seemed right. If the Foodal experts or readers have any suggestions I would love to hear them!
Moist is the calling card for zucchini loaf/bread/cake… I’ve added chocolate chips to my loaf recipe with nice results, but don’t have a good cake recipe for zucchini and chocolate. Anyone else?
This was a very informative article. I wasn’t aware that zucchini is technically in the fruit family. I’ve heard of the blossoms, but have never seen them, so apparently I will have to venture out to a farmer’s market, and hopefully see what they look like. I can’t imagine what the flavor is like. You’ve got some great preparation ideas here, things I wouldn’t have thought of, and will have to try some of them out!
Thanks for your comments Diane, glad you enjoyed the ideas. And have fun at the market!
I’ve never grown it myself, but I always hear that people who do end up having it in excess. So this is a great resource. I love pretty much and squash and it’s always nice to see how versatile it is. The fries sound like the kind of snack I need. And I actually almost prefer zucchini loaf over banana bread, haha.
Thanks Leopard, glad to be a zucchini resource as I’m one of those who always seem to have it in excess…
I have been loving all of these zucchini-themed articles from Foodal! I have been growing it in the garden, but I never know what to make with it. There’s never many recipes around that give really good looking suggestions; just mediocre ideas that you hear all the time and don’t want to try again. The spicy marmalade recipe, the idea to stuff it with various other ingredients, all the things talked about in here – they’re not the sort of recommendations I’ve ever heard anywhere else. The content I’ve been seeing here is truly unique. Thanks for sharing even more tips, Lorna. I will be giving those baked-and-breaded fries a try soon.
Glad you found the ideas useful nightwind, and I hope you enjoy the fries!
Too much zucchini! Tell me about it Lorna. This is a problem I struggle with, or should I say used to struggle with now that I have read this article. I definitely plan to try the marmalade.
I hear what you’re saying jeremyn, hope you find some of the ideas useful and enjoy the marmalade.
We always have a bountiful harvest of squash. I have certainly exhausted all my ideas for ways to cook it. So, I am grateful for the new ideals you have here. I am also grateful for the instructions on how to freeze them.
The marmilade and the loaf are two recipes I am excited to do and the fries seem like so much fun. Now I can handle all those squash.
Glad you enjoyed the post aphil, and have fun this summer with your new ideas on how to use it.
I like the pizza suggestion. I was recently offered a vegetable pizza with zucchini on it and was reluctant to try it. In my mind these two didn’t go together but it was very tasty. I also like to use it as a substitute for cucumber. I use them as a garnish on sandwiches when they’re in season and over abundant.
It does adapt to a lot of dishes jenni, and does work well on sandwiches… I like a cheese melt zucc sandwich with tomatoes and pesto.
I love zucchini and had no idea they were so versatile. I never knew you could eat the flowers and that they offer such exceptional flavor. Vegetables are so healthy and understanding how to use, prepare and cook them is really important if you want to prepare healthy balanced meals that everyone enjoys.
They’re a very unassuming veg, but seem to fit in just about any kind of dish – and make a good contribution to those healthy, balanced meals.
Zucchini/Squash is my all time favorite vegetable. It didn’t used to be. As a child and even in my 20’s I was not a big fan; but who am I kidding? I actually just started eating vegetables (period) within the past 5 years. I’m 50 now! Can you believe it?
I’ve been on a health kick journey for about 3 to 4 years now. Like many Americans obesity was winning and had control of my body. All types of squash have helped with that. It was one vegetable that I learned to love. Now, if I could only get my children to love them.
I’ll be trying that battered recipe – lightly battered that is. I think I’ll add some long petite green beans as well. I’m sure the kids will eat that. Well, here’s to hoping anyway!
Great story Mama Bulldog, so glad to hear you’ve taken back control of your body, and the important role veggies have played. And the kids will follow your lead if you persist at it… you’re an awesome role model for them!
Your articles are packed so full of information. I’m entering a horticultural technology program next year to study plant production, so I love seeing so much info.
Not a huge summer squash fan, but just the other day, a friend whose house I was staying at had an abundance of zucchini, and he did not know what to do with it. I will send him this article.
You can always fry anything!
Glad you find the posts informative HF, and thanks for passing on the article… I’m sure your friend will appreciate it!
Some great tips here, I especially love the fried zucchini blossoms and the zucchini fritters :-). I love zucchini soup and alway add a bit in my tomato sauce. Zucchini bread or zucchini’s filled with mince meat is great to. It is such a versatile vegetable and I can’t wait until my husband grows them in the garden 🙂
You do sound like a zucchini lover valedevento! And thanks for the tips!
I’m definitely filing these recipes away for summer time 🙂 Our landlord keeps a big garden in the back yard and every summer he brings us a bunch of fresh veggies…last year I only ended up using about half the zucchinis before they started going bad so I’ve been keeping an eye open for new ideas on how to use them.
How wonderful to have a supply of fresh summer veggies cck… hope you enjoy the recipes!
This is one of the most versatile vegetable I know. You can make it in a hundred different ways and it always turns out delicious! I usually grow my own courgettes and every year I have more than I could possibily use and I give lots of them away to friends and relatives. I had never thought to make marmalade, this is something I have to try out soon! I also own a juicer so I’ll definitely try out your drink, it sounds delicious and refreshing. And a special mention goes to those delicious-looking breaded chips, I’m getting hugry just by looking at them, I think that they would be great even deep-fried but I like your idea to bake them if you want to cut out the fats.
You gave me some great ideas, thank you so much!
It sounds like you have a true appreciation of courgettes Snarya! Glad you enjoyed the ideas for this amazing veg…
Yum. I wish I had this list back when I had my garden. So many zukes, so little time!
I’m still gifted with them throughout the warmer months, so I will definitely try some of these ideas. Pickling sounds particularly good right now, although I love frying them as well.
Man, now I’m hungry!
Fried zucks are delicious, and grilled is pretty good to Zyni – with a little brushing of olive oil, then a topping of Parmesan cheese heated until it turns golden… hope you enjoy your gifts!
I do love these and you have given us so many great ideas. I am going to try them all out. It is always great to find new and interesting ways of cooking food that also taste so much better. The family will be pleased.
It’s pretty awesome how versatile they are and the many different ways to cook them – not all veggies can claim the same…. Hope you and your family enjoy some of the ideas!
Some really nice ideas. I use zucchini and other summer squash as either pasta or meat substitutes. Zucchini parmasion or cubed zucchini as an addition to many soups can give the texture of soft meat without the calories. Probably my favorite though is just skillet fried with butter and sliced onions.
Mmmm, the skilled-fried with butter and onions caught my attention Azrile! Although I do like to use them as a pasta substitute as well… thanks for the ideas!
This is extremely useful as I find that squash is one of the few veggies that I can consistently get for a good price and in decent shape. I have done zucchini fries before and think they are delicious. But pizza?! I never even considered zucchini as a pizza topping. Now I am sure that my pie will never look as well crafted as yours, but I am enticed by what you did with the tried and true veggie pizza. The asparagus is a big plus too!
Not for food but for adorning gardens. Their big bright orange blossoms are a favorite with pollinating bees which swarm around blossoms but leave people alone.
They work really well for a veggie pizza on the BBQ Dame6089, with asparagus! Glad you liked the post.