Zucchini or Courgette (Cucurbita pepo)

Zucchini or Courgette (Cucurbita pepo)
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Zucchini (pronounced /zuːˈkiːni/, in North American and Australian English) or courgette (/kʊɚˈʒɛt/, in New Zealand and British English) is a small summer squash. Its scientific name is Cucurbita pepo. The zucchini can either be yellow, green or light green, and generally has a similar shape to a ridged cucumber, though a few cultivars are available that produce round or bottle-shaped fruit. On a culinary level, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Biologically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.

The zucchini flower can be male or female. The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each baby zucchini. The male flower grows directly on the stem of the zucchini plant in the leaf axils (where leaf petiole meets stem), on a long stalk, and is slightly smaller than the female. Both flowers are edible, and are often used to dress a meal or garnish the cooked fruit.

Firm and fresh blossoms that are only slightly open are cooked to be eaten, with pistils removed from female flowers, and stamens removed from male flowers. The stem on the flowers can be retained as a way of giving the cook something to hold onto during cooking, rather than injuring the delicate petals, or they can be removed prior to cooking, or prior to serving. There are a variety of recipes in which the flowers may be deep fried as fritters or tempura (after dipping in a light tempura batter), stuffed, sautéed, baked, or used in soups.

In Mexico, zucchini is often used for a light cream soup, “Sopa de Flor de Calabaza”, and it is quite popular in a variation of the traditional “Quesadilas”, becoming “Quesadillas de Flor de Calabaza”. Zucchini is also used in a variety of other dishes (“rajas”), and as a side dish ornament.

Zucchini, like all summer squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. While most summer squash ― including the closely related cocozelle, and marrow ― were introduced to Europe during the time of European colonization of the Americas, zucchini is European in origin, the result of spontaneously occurring mutations (also called “sports”). In all probability, this occurred in the very late 19th century, probably near Milan; early varieties usually included the names of nearby cities in their name. The alternate name Courgette comes from the French name of the fruit, with the same spelling, and is used in France and the United Kingdom. It is a diminutive of courge, French for squash. “Zucca” is the Italian word for squash; while the feminine diminutive plural “zucchine” is preferred in most regions of Italy, the masculine diminutive plural “zucchini” is used in some areas of Italy, Australia, and the United States. The first records of zucchini in the United States date to the early 1920s. It was almost certainly brought over by Italian immigrants, and probably first emerged in the United States in California.