April 24th is National Zucchini Bread Day. I'm not sure why it is zucchini bread instead of just zucchini but I'm happy that at least zucchini is getting mentioned.
Here in Texas, as in many other places of the country, zucchini is starting to produce in abundance. My uncle, who lives in California, claims that in the middle of the summer you need to drive around with your windows rolled up. Otherwise when you stop at a traffic light grocery bags of zucchini are apt to come flying through the window.
Everyone who grows zucchini seems to fully understand the abundance of nature. One tiny seed can produce a fruit that ranges in size from baby-pickles to dugout canoe. But before we malign this wonderful fruit (and yes, zucchini is indeed a fruit, even though we treat it like a vegetable) let's look at how good it is for us.
Zucchini, sometimes also called courgette, is a type of squash from the Cucurbito pepo species; they can be green skinned or yellow skinned and are usually shaped like a cucumber, although there are some varieties that have different shapes. The species is believed to be native to the Americas and was brought to Europe during colonization. Eventually, in Italy, there was a mutation that gave rise to the green skinned version that we usually refer to as zucchini today. This variety was brought back to America by the Italian immigrants.
Zucchini are great for a lot of different things. They are wonderful sliced and served straight up in a salad, as crudites or baked, stuffed, grilled, in soup or shredded and baked into dessert. In addition to tasting great and being such a useful fruit what nutritional benefits can you find in zucchini? To start with they are a great source of manganese which is an essential trace mineral. Zucchini are also very high in vitamin C. Manganese works with vitamin C to help detoxify the body among other health benefits. They are also a good source of magnesium, Vitamin A, fiber, folate, potassium and phosphorus. So to salute this fabulous fruit, and in honor of National Zucchini Bread Day, grab your favorite recipe and make a batch.
Unfortunately my research turned up the fact that two genetically modified (GM) strains of zucchini are currently approved in the US for cultivation and use as food. Unless you are getting them from a trusted source or from your own garden you may want to purchase organic zucchini.
photo courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr