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June 10, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Discover: Courgette

  • The courgette is a small summer squash. Along with some other squashes, it belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo. 
  • Zucchini is the more common name in North America, Australia, Germany and Italy, while courgette is more commonly used in Britain, New Zealand, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa. 
  • Zucchini can be yellow, green or light green, and generally have a similar shape to a ridged cucumber, though a few cultivars are available that produce round or bottle-shaped fruit.
  • In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. 
  • Botanically the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.
  • The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each emergent 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, the flower is often used for a soup, sopa de flor de calabaza, and it is quite popular in a variation of the traditional quesadillas, becoming quesadillas de flor de calabaza.
  • Zucchini is also used in a variety of other dishes (rajas), and as a side dish
  • When used for food, zucchini are usually picked when under 20 cm (8 in.) in length and the seeds are soft and immature. 
  • Mature zucchini can be as much as three feet long, but are often fibrous and not appetizing to eat. Zucchini with the flowers attached are a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and are especially sought by many people.
  • Unlike cucumber, zucchini are usually served cooked. 
  • It can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques, including steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, or incorporated in other recipes such as soufflés. 
  • It also can be baked into a bread, or incorporated into a cake mix. Its flowers can be eaten stuffed and are a delicacy when deep fried, as tempura.
  • The zucchini has a delicate flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil, with or without fresh herbs. The skin is left in place. 
  • Quick cooking of barely wet zucchini in oil or butter allows the fruit to partially boil and steam, with the juices concentrated in the final moments of frying when the water has gone, prior to serving. 
  • Zucchini can also be eaten raw, sliced or shredded in a cold salad, baked into a bread similar to banana bread, as well as hot and barely cooked in hot salads, as in Thai or Vietnamese recipes.
  • Zucchini should be stored not longer than three days. 
  • They are prone to chilling damage which shows as sunken pits in the surface of the fruit, especially when brought up to room temperature after cool storage.
  • In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the courgette to be the Britain’s 10th favorite culinary vegetable. 
  • In Mexico, the flower (known as flor de calabaza) is preferred over the fruit and is often cooked in soups or used as a filling for quesadillas.
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