The other day I found myself with a whole bag full of zucchini and not the slightest idea on how to use it all up before it went bad. I started to research my options and boy, was I in for surprise! Have you ever heard of zucchini pasta? What about zucchini bread or pickled zucchini? This seemingly boring summer vegetable can apparently provide lots of room for experimenting and truly enrich your summer menu.

Background Information

Did you know that zucchini, which originates in the Americas, is actually botanically a fruit, although considered a vegetable everywhere? Zucchini belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo, which includes pumpkins and cucumbers.

The flowers of the zucchini are also edible, French and Italian cuisine offers a variety of dishes made out of them. Remember that unless frozen in air-tight containers, neither zucchini, nor its flowers can be stored for long periods of time.

Benefits of Zucchini

1. Helps In Weight Management

Zucchini is low-calorie and is perfect to substitute calorie rich foods with. Moreover, zucchini’s combination of dietary fiber and water (around 95%) controls your appetite, helps you burn calories, as well as gives you more energy. It is also a rich source of antioxidants, Vitamin A and C.

2. Improves Eye Health

Not only do zucchini help your eyes to appear less puffy if applied externally, just like cucumbers, but due to its beta-carotene content and the presence of Vitamin A, C and zinc, it helps in active cell development in the eyes, which enhances vision and helps in preventing age-related medical conditions affecting the eyes such as macular degeneration.

3. Helps Lower Cholesterol

The high-fiber content in zucchini helps in lowering cholesterol. The high levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin C delays the beginning of atherosclerosis by keeping the cholesterol from oxidizing the body’s blood vessels. Zucchini rids the body of excess toxins.

4. Improves Cardiovascular Health and Lowers Blood Pressure

Due to its high magnesium content, zucchini can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Zucchini also contains folic acid, which is instrumental in destroying dangerous amino acids, which cause heart attacks and thrombosis.

Potassium and magnesium found in zucchini help in lowering blood pressure, as well as alleviate stress on the body’s circulatory system.

5. Prevents Gout

Gout is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the joints, due to excessive uric acid in the body. Zucchini is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory carotenoids that can counter the effects of excessive uric acid.

6. Guards Against Asthma and Strengthens Teeth And Bones

Vitamin C plays a huge role in keeping the immune systems healthy and fighting respiratory problems. Zucchini also contains calcium that helps the nervous system to function properly and gives strength to the bones and teeth.

7. Beneficial in Diabetes Treatment

The B complex vitamins, as well as the presence of zinc and magnesium help in breaking down the sugar in your body, whereas fiber and pectin are vital in regulating the blood sugar levels. This combination of Vitamin B, folates and fiber goes a long way in keeping type-2 diabetes at bay.

Zucchini, which originates in the Americas, is actually botanically a fruit, although considered a vegetable everywhere. Photo: WebLibrary

Fun Zucchini Recipes

1. Quick Pickles
Use the pickling liquid (1 cup of white vinegar, 1/3 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of salt) and add a few sprigs of fresh dill and a quarter of a red onion, thinly sliced, for one medium zucchini. Pack it tightly in the jar and 6 hours later you can enjoy a crunchy snack, or wait for 3 days for just the right amount of sweet and sour.

2. Zucchini Butter

Take a little olive oil or butter (or both), melt in some minced shallot or garlic (or both), then dump in a lot of grated zucchini and cook it down to a soft buttery pile. Use it as sandwich spread or as a side dish.

3. Zucchini Bread or Muffins

Mix 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of oil, 3 eggs, 3 cups of flour, ¼ tablespoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 cups of grated zucchini, nuts, vanilla and cinnamon to taste, bake for 50 minutes at 180 degrees.

4. Baked Zucchini Fries
Combine some Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and beaten egg whites, dip the thinly sliced zucchini pieces into the mixtures and bake them for about 15 minutes in the preheated oven.

5. Zucchini Pasta
Cut long thin slices of zucchini with a vegetable peeler stopping when the seeds are reached, cook and stir zucchini in hot oil for a couple of minutes. Try it as a substitute in all of your favorite pasta dishes.

Enjoy delicious and nutritious zucchini and let us know which recipe is your favorite! /

*Albania eye-witnessed by a Russian researcher, living in Tirana since 2013. Liana Suleymanova studied history at the American University in Bulgaria where she got introduced to Albania, whose past particularly captured her. Her interest in the small country developed even more during her master studies in the Central European University in Budapest and Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, where she focused on Albanian history, especially on the transition from communism to democracy.