Squashes were domesticated in Mexico 9,000 years ago. They spread quickly throughout North America.
Spanish and Portuguese explorers took them to Africa, Asia, and Europe in the 16th century.
In the 18th century, the Italians began to eat a variety picked before they were ripe: this is how the zucchini came about. After its arrival in France at the end of the 19th century, it became an icon of southern European cuisine.
A zucchini should be firm and shiny, with fine, unblemished skin.
The larger the zucchini, the more chance it has of having spongy flesh that is full of seeds.
Zucchini is standardized in Europe. There are two normal sizes corresponding to its length: 21/26 and 14/21. These apply to fruit weighing approximately 100 g and represents 80% of total output.
Trumpet zucchini are widely grown in the south of France and in Italy.
Zucchini can be found frozen, sliced, and ready to cook.
Zucchini flowers (male) are picked every morning by producers and immediately sent to market.
Small zucchini can be served raw or chipped in salads.
They are consumed everywhere with myriad uses: steamed, fried, stuffed, pureed, or accompanying other vegetables, such as in the Niçois ratatouille and the Italian caponata.
Zucchini flowers are stuffed, battered and fried, or served raw in salads. They must be delicately cleaned with a damp cloth before use, with their pistils and stalk removed.
Fresh zucchini should be kept in a cool room or refrigerator at 0–4ºC.
Cooked, they can be kept for up to 3 days at the same temperature.
Zucchini flowers are very delicate and should be used immediately.
Zucchini have a high water content, and are therefore low in calories.
They are packed with antioxidant carotenoids and minerals. They also contain vitamin D.
There are numerous zucchini varieties. The main types in France are:
. Blanche de Virginie: elongated, pale green, light and compact flesh
. Grisette de Provence or Greysini: elongated, light green with gray veins, fine white flesh
. Diamant:: elongated and cylindrical, shiny green skin
. Verte maraîchère: long, dark green
. Long white bush: cucumber-shaped, light green
. Gold Rush: elongated, golden yellow; soft, cream-colored flesh
. Trumpet zucchini: small, lightly curved, light green
. Ronde de Nice: small and round, fine and soft flesh
. Black Forest zucchini: 10–25 cm, green.
These zucchini varieties are available May through October.
There are a great many zucchini varieties in the United States, South America, the Middle East, and China that are adapted to the climate of each country and region.
The pipangaille, grown on Réunion, is from the same family. Smooth or ribbed, the fruit is very long and green, and encloses black seeds.
The chayote, from the same family, is known as cristophine in the West Indies and Guyana, chouchou in Réunion and Mauritius, mirliton in Haiti. It is also very widely grown in South America. It has firm white flesh.