This week’s “good for you food” is zucchini, a dark green summer squash with numerous health benefits. You’ll find zucchini in the stores year round, but the peak season is July through September. Chances are that if your neighbors have zucchini growing in their garden, you won’t need to pay for it at the store or farmer’s market. They’ll be glad to leave some on your doorstep.
The advantages of incorporating zucchini into your diet are as abundant as the squash themselves these days. For starters, it’s low in calories, about 17 per cup of raw fruit with skin. Yes, zucchini is technically a fruit, although it is often served as a vegetable side dish. It’s considered a good source of vitamin C, providing 11 mg. And zucchini is high in folate, potassium, manganese, and vitamin A. The rind is loaded with beta-carotene, so leave the peel on. When choosing zucchini, look for fruit without bruises or broken skin. Darker skin means riper fruit. Be sure it is firm and not too soft. If you can’t use it all right away, you can “process” it by chopping or shredding the fruit for your recipe, and then freeze it for later use. This is especially handy for baking, so you're not too tired to make dozens of loaves of zucchini bread after shredding a couple monsters from the garden. Don’t leave it in the freezer for more than a couple months, though.
Zucchini is incredibly versatile. One of its most popular uses is for the aforementioned zucchini bread, or try it in muffins with shredded carrot, chopped apples and raisins. It can also be enjoyed simply sliced and steamed, sautéed in olive oil and garlic, shredded into a frittata, roasted on the grill, or chopped into a hearty stew or soup. You can also make it into a variety of salads. Use a vegetable peeler to slice long, thin “ribbons” and add one part lemon juice to two parts olive oil, plus a little Parmesan cheese. Or give it a rough chop and toss it with chunks of tomatoes and thin slices of red onion, then toss it with a little V8 juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and you’ve got a hearty, rustic salad that complements almost any summer menu. Use a hunk of crusty French bread for sopping up the juices.
Download some healthy Zucchini recipes from my Kitchen to yours...