Botanical name: Cucurbita pepo
Zucchini is a plant widely cultivated on Italian soil, whose fruits are often used as a condiment and as a main dish, also thanks to the excellent nutritional properties. Its optimal conditions mirror those of many territories: prolonged exposure to sunlight and enough wind. Being an annual plant, it gets through the initial part of its life relatively quickly, and is in fact usually grown during the warm seasons of the year, in order to bear fruit and flower before arrival of winter. The suitable soil is of medium texture and not too humid, therefore zucchini is also easy to grow and, if left in optimal conditions, there will be a yield of over thirty fruits per plant, provided that the soil on which the plant will have to expand is left free of other crops.
Origins and history of zucchini
Since ancient times (more than 10,000 years ago) Native American civilizations cultivated this climbing plant to meet a large part of their nutritional needs. Presumably, the Cucurbita pepo species is the evolution of a wild species already present in nature, but adapted for cultivation in vegetable gardens, something in which the civilizations of central America excelled. Although it was cultivated for the consumption of seeds, its fruits were also eaten following export to Europe, which took place around 1500. Although the shapes of the plant itself are always similar, there are types of fruit different: the best known varieties are the Sicilian zucchini (lighter in color), the black from Milan and the round from Piacenza and Florence.
Nutritional and beneficial properties of zucchini
Zucchini is widely usable in the kitchen thanks to its nutritional values, which make it a perfect component for soups, salads and secondary condiments for pasta. Being composed for the most part of water, it will be light in any recipe it is inserted by enriching the protein intake, but at the same time giving a sweeter taste thanks to the concentration of carbohydrates.
In 100g, there will be a concentration of protein that is between 1g and 1.5g, with an almost equal amount of carbohydrates. The fibers are limited to 1% of the total composition. Furthermore, this variety of vegetables is an excellent source of potassium and folic acid, as well as vitamins A and C.
Uses of zucchini
In the most common recipes, this particular vegetable is always a secondary condiment, but it plays a fundamental role in balancing the flavors. Although light, in fact, the flavor manages to balance most of the salty ingredients thanks to the composition containing large quantities of water.
The most common uses are those that involve this vegetable cut into pieces or slices and added directly to the preparation of soups, broths and salads.
More elaborate recipes instead see the fruit emptied and filled with other vegetables with touches of meat such as mortadella. Furthermore, it can be cut into slices and combined with mozzarella, tomato juice and Emmental to be baked in such a way as to form a parmigiana. Zucchini is also used in the preparation of various recipes that see it inserted in a dough. In fact, it is possible to cook a quiche if it is combined with pecorino and other herbs. The uses of this vegetable are many, and in fact it can be grilled, steamed or even fried. Oriental cuisine, for example, uses this vegetable in tempura, coating it with batter. A more traditional way to serve it is "alla Scapece", typically Neapolitan, where the fruit becomes an appetizer thanks to frying and marinating with oil and vinegar before the meal. The flowers of the plant can be fried, and therefore usable for pancakes and omelettes along with the fruit itself.
The recipe for the zucchini "alla Scapece" was mentioned in a film by Totò, "A Neapolitan Turkish". In the scene of the preparation of the wedding, the foods that the groom does not like are put on a list, the "Cocozzelli alla Scapese", which are nothing but pickled zucchini.
This is because, apparently, the well-known actor was crazy about it, so much so that he wanted to pay homage to traditional cuisine by dedicating a short space to the recipe in the film.