It's good that so many things can be done with zucchini—it's the most enthusiastic producer in the garden, after all. One plant can yield between 6 and 10 pounds of fruit over a season. Gardeners tell stories of furtively leaving bags of zucchini at their neighbors' front doors in a desperate move to avoid being overrun by the bounty.
Pictured Recipe: Hasselback Zucchini "Pizzas"
Zucchini are best quality in the height of summer and make for simple and fast grilled sides or salads. Bakers also love zucchini because it lends moisture and texture to baked goods when grated and stirred into batter for quick breads, muffins and cakes.
Grill it up and serve with your favorite grilled meat. Make zucchini noodles and toss with your favorite pasta sauce. Roast or sauté it in olive oil, or steam it for an easy veggie side. Here we show you how to cook zucchini in a variety of delicious ways, perfectly every time.
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Pictured recipe: Easy Grilled Zucchini
Cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips. Preheat grill; brush strips lightly with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Place over direct, medium heat; grill, turning once, until marked and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Pictured recipe: Easy Roasted Zucchini
Preheat oven to 500°F. Cut zucchini lengthwise into 1-inch pieces. Toss the zucchini with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet or in a pan large enough to hold the pieces in a single layer. Roast until beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the zucchini and continue roasting until just tender, 7 to 9 minutes more.
Pictured recipe: Sautéed Zucchini
Cut zucchini into 1/4-inch-thick rings. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 minced garlic clove and the zucchini; cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 7 minutes.
Pictured recipe: Easy Steamed Zucchini
Cut zucchini into 1/2-inch-thick rings. Place in a steamer basket with a small onion, thinly sliced. Place over 1 inch of water in a large pot set over high heat. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Pictured recipe: Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto & Shrimp
Frequently called "zoodles," this must-know take on zucchini deftly graduates the versatile veggie from side dish to main dish. To make zucchini noodles, use a spiral vegetable slicer or a vegetable peeler to cut zucchini lengthwise into long, thin strands or strips. Stop when you reach the seeds in the middle (seeds make the noodles fall apart). Place the zucchini "noodles" in a colander and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let drain for 15 to 30 minutes, then gently squeeze to remove any excess water.
Pictured recipe: Italian Zucchini-Topped Baked Potato
The best zucchini are free of breaks, gashes and soft spots. They should feel heavy for their size and have glossy, unblemished skin. Smaller squash (under 8 inches) are sweeter and have fewer seeds.
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Pictured recipe: Roasted Baby Zucchini with Lemon Labneh
Store unwashed zucchini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days. Don't wash the squash until you're ready to prep and cook. When ready to cook there's no need to peel, but do take the time to scrub off any dirt. Rinse under cool running water, rubbing gently if there is any residual soil. Trim off both ends, then slice, cut or grate as desired.
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Pictured recipe: Zucchini Tortillas
Zucchini is a healthful choice for many reasons, not least of which is its low-calorie, high-nutrient yield. One cup of sliced cooked zucchini has just 27 calories, 1 gram of fat and no saturated fat. It also packs in just 5 grams of carbs, 3 grams of sugars, and 5 milligrams of sodium. Zucchini is a good source of potassium and also has 2 grams of protein and 2 grams of filling fiber per serving.
Feasting on summer squash like zucchini could also spell seasonal allergy relief: it's loaded with vitamin C, a natural antihistamine; just one medium zucchini will net you 58 percent of the vitamin C you need in a day.
Pictured recipe: Fennel & Zucchini Salad with Watercress, Mint & Feta
Zucchini is a great option for the casual gardener because it's such a prolific grower. Sow seeds two to three weeks after the last spring frost in full sun in loose, fertile, well-drained soil. Plant seeds 2 or 3 feet apart in a traditional garden bed, or plant several seeds sown closer together in a slight mound or hill—the soil is warmer when slightly elevated. (Allow 5 or 6 feet between hills.)
Keep plants well watered, and mulch them to retain moisture and keep weeds at bay. Harvest zucchini when they're about 6 inches long. Cut, do not pull, the squash from the vines. Check plants daily and harvest frequently for the best fruit and to increase production.
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In Italy, fritelle di fiori di zucca—batter-fried zucchini blossoms—are a crisp, ethereal delicacy. Only the male blossoms—those with a long, thin stem—are harvested. It is the female flowers, or blossoms with a slight swelling at the bottom that, once pollinated, produce the squash.