Zucchini is the most common variety of summer squash. It exists in several shapes and colors, but we see it most commonly as dark green, speckled with lighter green.
Summer squashes are members of the gourd family, which includes numerous varieties in addition to zucchini, such as pattypan, yellow crookneck, Gold Bar, Eight Ball and Tatuma. All are the immature fruits of Cucurbito pepo, a species that also includes melons, cucumbers and many other varieties of pumpkins and winter squash. Summer squashes are distinct from their winter cousins because their skins and seeds are tender and edible. Most summer squash varieties are similar in flavor and texture and can be used interchangeably in recipes.
A New World vegetable, summer squash sustained Native Americans for centuries and quickly became a mainstay of the early European colonists’ diet. The term "summer squash" is believed to derive from the Narragansett Indian word, askutasquash, which means “eaten uncooked.”
Easy-to-cultivate zucchini plants are both prolific and fast-growing. As anyone who has ever planted summer squash knows, they need to be harvested daily or they grow to enormous size, seemingly overnight! Florida and California lead the US in commercial zucchini production. Though quality zucchini is generally available year-round, it’s always at its best in summer.
Why choose organic zucchini?
- Summer squash is #26 on the Environmental Working Group's “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” a list of produce that carries the most pesticide residues when grown conventionally. So choosing organic zucchini makes good sense — especially for children, whose growing bodies are so much more susceptible to environmental chemical exposures than adults’.
- At Earthbound Farm, we grow our organic zucchini without toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using sustainable farming methods that protect the environment and help keep pesticides out of our soil, air, water, and food supply. Organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think organic zucchini tastes better, too!
- WhatsOnMyFood.org from the Pesticide Action Network shows you searchable results for vegetables like summer squash and a wide range of other organic and conventional foods. It’s an easy-to-use and empowering tool for learning about pesticide residues and their health effects for all of us.
How to select and store zucchini
- Select small or medium-size zucchini with bright, glossy skin. Avoid large specimens, which tend to have numerous seeds and drier, sometimes bitter flesh.
- The skin on summer squashes should be tender enough to pierce with a fingernail. Pass up zucchini that are limp, bruised, wrinkled or have soft spots.
- Store your zucchini unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To use, trim off the stem and flowering ends (what chefs call “top & tail”), and discard.
Tips for using zucchini
- Summer squashes are prized for their tender, succulent flesh and delicate, bright flavor. Zucchini don’t need to be peeled, so they’re quick and easy to cook — so versatile that it’s no wonder they’re one of the most popular vegetables. Zucchini are delicious raw, grilled, broiled, sautéed, steamed, roasted or fried.
- Even zucchini’s pretty yellow-orange blossoms are highly sought after by chefs. Squash blossoms are very fragile and perish quickly. Use them immediately after picking, or on the day you purchase them. Female blossoms have a soft fleshy center and are preferred to male flowers, which are hairy and not as fruity in flavor. Female blossoms become the actual squash, whereas male blossoms grow on independent, fruitless stems.