Zucchini {Cucurbita pepo}

Zucchini is basically a type of squash available during summer. In effect, zucchini is a robust squash that grows with good grace in an assortment of environs and has a wide range of uses – ranging from sweet zucchini bread to raw ‘pasta’ prepared with zucchini strips. Zucchini is available in several markets during summer and one may also grow this squash at home. However, people intending to grow zucchini at home need to exercise some caution since the plants of this squash may profusely produce squash, more than what one can even imagine to be actually possible.

The physical appearance of zucchini is somewhat similar to the shape of sausages. This type of squash has a green skin that might be dappled with white specks. A number of zucchini varieties may also have a yellow skin too. The flavor of zucchini is mild which may possibly be described as something akin to ‘spring’. When the squash is raw, its texture is crisp and irritating. After cooking, the texture of zucchini becomes considerably soft and it may even become spongy very rapidly.

Generally, the smaller the size of zucchini, the better it is, as the squash becomes woody when it grows very large. In addition, some varieties of zucchini may also have prickly bristles as they age and this compels the cooks to grate or peel off the skin. Any good variety of zucchini will feel weighty for its size since this indicates that this type of summer squash encloses plenty of moisture. In addition, a good zucchini would have a firm, but smooth texture without any hollowed spots or marks of mold. Occasionally, you may also buy zucchini that still have the flowers on. In effect, the blossoms of zucchini too may be cooked in several ways.

You may also use raw zucchini to prepare dips, add to vegetable dishes or sliced using a mandoline (a kitchen tool to slice vegetables) to prepare an imitation of pasta for connoisseurs of raw food. There are many people who relish consuming raw zucchini out of hand, occasionally adding some salt to it. In addition, raw zucchini may also be added to salads. Shredded raw zucchini may also be employed in batters for preparing baked foods with a view to adding additional moisture, texture and fiber to them.

In addition to consuming them raw, zucchini may be cooked in several different ways. The larger types of zucchini are scooped out and subsequently stuffed with a wide assortment of fillings prior to baking them. In addition, zucchini may also be roasted or grilled along with other vegetables, added to pasta sauces, tossed in stir-fries and also used in soups, stews, and curries. It is advised that you add zucchini to your dishes/ culinary preparations at the very last moment in order to enjoy the delectable crispy texture of this squash.

Zucchini is available throughout the year. Nevertheless, the most superior quality zucchini is generally harvested during the later part of spring. As mentioned earlier, of similar size, the weightier the zucchini is, the tastier it will be since it encloses considerable moisture. Apart from its weight, any good quality zucchini will also have a firm texture when it is pressed gently.

People who are keen to grow zucchini, they ought to select a sunlit position in the garden and fertilize the soil using compost or manure for additional nutrition. Prepare a mound for individual zucchini crop to grow on. You may germinate zucchini seeds at home or even purchase the seedlings and plant them in your garden during the later part of spring. Gardeners may also just sow the seeds directly in their permanent positions outdoors – the squash plot. It is essential that the soil is moist all through, but not soggy, and stakes ought to be employed to provide support to the young plants as they grow. It is important to avoid the vegetables (squash) making contact with the ground.

Zucchini can be harvested immediately when they begin to appear. As aforementioned, this plant produces profuse vegetables and, hence, many gardeners stop them from overproducing by collecting the blossoms that may be battered and fried, added to stir-fries, tossed with pasta and so on. In case there is an excessive production of zucchini, gardeners may use the vegetables to prepare zucchini preserves as well as chutneys or may even drop off undesired squash to their neighbors.

Health Benefits of Zucchini

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Apart from being a favorite vegetable for many, the fiber present in zucchini is helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels. This dietary fiber works by binding itself to bile acids produced by the liver from cholesterol for digestion of fat. Since the dietary fiber attaches excellently with bile acid, thereby enhancing its competence to digest fat immediately, the liver is stimulated to produce additional bile acid. Subsequently, the liver collects more cholesterol to make more bile acid and, as a result, it lowers the general level of cholesterol in the body. In addition, the elevated levels of vitamin A and vitamin C in zucchini also thwart cholesterol from oxidizing within the blood vessels of the body. This way, the dietary fiber in zucchini obstructs the commencement of atherosclerosis (an ailment of the coronary artery).

As dietary fiber present in zucchini supports a positive and normal bowel movement, it also facilitates in preventing carcinogenic toxins ( a noxious substance that assists in developing cancer) from stabilizing in the colon. In addition, the vitamin A and vitamin C enclosed by the vegetable plus folate present in zucchini work as potent antioxidants that combat oxidative pressure, which has the potential to result in several dissimilar types of cancer.

Several types of research have revealed that phytonutrients present in zucchini facilitate in lessening the symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BOH), a medical condition wherein the prostate gland becomes enlarged and results in problems related to passing urine as well as sexual activities in men.

Zucchini contains vitamin A and vitamin C, which are anti-inflammatory in nature, and they help the body by functioning as potent antioxidants as well as helpful anti-inflammatory agents. In addition, copper is also present in zucchini and this mineral along with vitamins A and C put off the growth of several hyper-inflammatory problems, counting osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and even asthma.

It may be noted that one cup (250 ml) zucchini serving encloses more than 10 percent of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of magnesium – there is substantial evidence of the fact that this mineral diminishes the risks of stroke and heart attack. In addition, zucchini also encloses folate, a type of vitamin that breaks down hazardous amino acid homocysteine. It has been found that when the level of this dangerous substance increases in the body, it may add to the risks of having a stroke or heart attack.

In addition to magnesium, zucchini also contains potassium, which aids in lowering blood pressure. It may be noted that if high blood pressure (hypertension) is not checked, it may result in arteriosclerosis or damage of the blood vessels, stroke, heart attack and several other grave medical conditions. Nevertheless, magnesium and potassium present in zucchini have the competence to provide relief from the pressure on the circulatory system of the body.

Manganese, which is a trace mineral and an indispensable nutrient, provides the body with numerous health benefits and, at the same time, facilitates in the performance of a number of regular physiological functions of the body. As mentioned earlier, one cup (250 ml) serving of zucchini has about 19 percent of the recommended daily allowance or RDA of manganese. This aids the body to metabolize (break down) carbohydrates and proteins and, simultaneously, stimulates the production of sex hormones. Furthermore, manganese also helps as a catalyzing agent in synthesizing cholesterol and fatty acids.

Manganese enclosed by zucchini also enhances the intensities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme that is responsible for saving mitochondria from harm from oxidative pressure. Last, but not the least important, manganese is also necessary for producing proline (amino acid), which enables the formation of collagen. Thereby, it also makes the skin healthy and promotes healing of wounds.

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