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This article is about the fruit. For other uses, see Zucchini (disambiguation).
Zucchini or courgette
A striped and a regular zucchini
Species Cucurbita pepo

Zucchini (/zˈkn/) or courgette (/kʊərˈʒɛt/, British English) is a summer squash which can reach nearly a meter in length, but which is usually harvested at half that size or less. A fully grown courgette is referred to as a marrow.

Along with certain other squashes and pumpkins, it belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo. Zucchini can be dark or light green. A related hybrid, the golden zucchini, is a deep yellow or orange color.[1]

In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable; it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, zucchini are fruit, a type of botanical berry, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower. Zucchini, like all squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called "zucchini" were developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the Americas.


Full-grown zucchini on plant
Golden zucchinis produced in the Netherlands for sale in a supermarket in Montpellier, France in April 2013

In North America, Australia and Germany, the plant is commonly called a zucchini (Listeni/zˈkni/; plural: zucchini or zucchinis), from Italian: zucchina[2] [dzukˈkiːna], plural: zucchine. In Scandinavia, however, the name squash is more commonly used than zucchini.

The name courgette (French pronunciation: ​[kuʁ.ʒɛt]) is a French loan word and is commonly used in countries including Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and South Africa.

In the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand, a fully grown courgette is referred to as a marrow.[3] In South Africa, the fruit is typically harvested as a baby vegetable, approximately finger size, and is referred to as “baby marrows”.[4][5]


Flower of zucchini

The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each emergent zucchini. The male flower grows directly on the stem of the zucchini plant in the leaf axils (where leaf petiole meets stem), on a long stalk, and is slightly smaller than the female. Both flowers are edible and are often used to dress a meal or to garnish the cooked fruit.

Firm and fresh blossoms that are only slightly open are cooked to be eaten, with pistils removed from female flowers, and stamens removed from male flowers. The stems on the flowers can be retained as a way of giving the cook something to hold onto during cooking, rather than injuring the delicate petals, or they can be removed prior to cooking, or prior to serving. There are a variety of recipes in which the flowers may be deep fried as fritters or tempura (after dipping in a light tempura batter), stuffed, sautéed, baked, or used in soups.

History and etymology[edit]

Zucchini, like all squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called "zucchini" were developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the Americas. In all probability, this occurred in the very late 19th century, probably near Milan; early varieties usually included the names of nearby cities in their names. Zucca is the Italian word for pumpkin/squash and zucchino/zucchina (zucca + ina = little) are diminutive forms, becoming zucchini/zucchine in the plural. Zucchino, the masculine form (zucchini in the plural), is the first form to be documented in writing.[2] An Italian dictionary called lo Zingarelli 2015, Zanichelli Editore, gives both forms, as does the Devoto-Oli published by Le Monnier, but the Accademia della Crusca, the most important research institution on Italian language, defines zucchino as the preferable form.[2] The Treccani, Istituto dell'Enciclopedia italiana, another highly respected linguistic authority, gives zucchina as the main Italian word, and the masculine form as Tuscan dialect. Zucchini is used in Italy, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Zucchini is one of the plural forms in English (along with zucchinis), as well as the singular form.[6] The first records of zucchini in the United States date to the early 1920s. It was almost certainly brought over by Italian immigrants and probably was first cultivated in the United States in California.

The alternative name "courgette" is the French word for the vegetable, and is commonly used in France, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. It is a diminutive of courge, French for squash.

Culinary uses[edit]

Zucchini soup

When used for food, zucchini are usually picked when under 20 cm (8 in.) in length, when the seeds are still soft and immature. Mature zucchini can be as large as a baseball bat. The larger ones are often fibrous. A zucchini with the flowers attached is a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and it is especially sought after for its sweeter flavor.[7]

Unlike cucumber, zucchini is usually served cooked. It can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques, including steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, or incorporated in other recipes such as soufflés. Zucchini can also be baked into a bread[8] similar to banana bread or incorporated into a cake mix. Its flowers can be eaten stuffed and are a delicacy when deep fried, as tempura.

Grilled zucchini

Zucchini has a delicate flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil, with or without fresh herbs.[9] The skin is left in place. Quick cooking of barely wet zucchini in oil or butter allows the fruit to partially boil and steam, with the juices concentrated in the final moments of frying when the water has gone, prior to serving. Zucchini can also be eaten raw, sliced or shredded, in a cold salad, as well as lightly cooked in hot salads, as in Thai or Vietnamese recipes. Mature (larger sized) zucchini are well suited for cooking in breads.

In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed zucchini (courgette) to be Britain's 10th favorite culinary vegetable.[10]

In Mexico, the flower (known as flor de calabaza) is often cooked in soups or used as a filling for quesadillas. The fruit is used in stews, soups (i.e. caldo de res, de pollo, or de pescado, mole de olla, etc.) and other preparations.[citation needed] The flower, as well as the fruit, is eaten often throughout Latin America.[11]

In Italy, zucchini is served in a variety of ways: fried, baked, boiled, or deep fried, alone or in combination with other ingredients. At home and in some restaurants, it is possible to eat the flowers, as well, deep-fried, known as fiori di zucca.

In France, zucchini is a key ingredient in ratatouille, a stew of summer fruits and vegetables prepared in olive oil and cooked for an extended time over low heat. The dish, originating near present-day Nice, is served as a side dish or on its own at lunch with bread. Zucchini may be stuffed with meat or with other fruits such as tomatoes or bell peppers in a dish called courgette farcie (stuffed zucchini).

In Turkey, zucchini is the main ingredient in the popular dish mücver, or "zucchini pancakes", made from shredded zucchini, flour, and eggs, lightly fried in olive oil and eaten with yogurt. They are also often used in kebabs along with various meats. The flowers are also used in a cold dish, where they are stuffed with a rice mix with various spices and nuts and stewed.

In the Levant, zucchini is stuffed with minced meat and rice plus herbs and spices and steamed. It is also used in various kinds of stew. Stews that have low salinity are favorable in such cooking. It can also be stuffed with a mixture of rice and meat and eaten with yogurt.

In Greece, zucchini is usually fried or stewed with other fruits (often green chili peppers and eggplants). It is served as an hors d'œuvre or as a main dish, especially during fasting seasons. Zucchini is also stuffed with minced meat, rice, and herbs and served with avgolemono sauce. In several parts of Greece, the flowers of the plant are stuffed with white cheese, usually feta or mizithra cheese, or with a mixture of rice, herbs, and occasionally minced meat. They are then deep-fried or baked in the oven with tomato sauce.

In Bulgaria, zucchini may be fried and then served with a dip, made from yogurt, garlic, and dill. Another popular dish is oven-baked zucchini—sliced or grated—covered with a mixture of eggs, yogurt, flour, and dill.

In Egypt, zucchini may be cooked with tomato sauce, garlic, and onions.[12]

Zucchinis can be cut with a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles for low-carbohydrate recipes.

In 2015 there was a case of a 79-year-old man in Germany who died after consuming a zucchini. Investigators warned that gardeners should not save their own seeds, as reversion to forms containing more poisonous cucurbitacin might occur.[13][14]

Stuffed zucchini[edit]

Stuffed zucchini exists in different names and forms in various world cuisines, including kousa mahshi and punjene tikvice. Typical recipes for stuffed zucchinis will include zucchini, minced garlic or garlic cloves, salt, black pepper, egg, and any type of meat,[15][16][17] though the meat is optional. Other condiments, fruits, or vegetables may also be added for flavor.


Zucchini plant, Gurgaon, India

Zucchini are low in calories (approximately 17 food calories per 100 g fresh zucchini) and contains useful amounts of folate (24 μg/100 g), potassium (261 mg/100 g) and provitamin A (200 IU [10 RAE]/100 g).[18]


Members of the plant family Cucurbitacea, which includes zucchini/marrows, pumpkins and cucumbers, can contain toxins called cucurbitacins. These are chemically classified as steroids; they defend the plants from predators, and have a bitter taste to humans. Cultivated cucurbitaceae are bred for low levels of the toxin and are safe to eat. However, ornamental pumpkins can have high levels of cucurbitacins, and such ornamental plants can cross-fertilise edible cucurbitaceae - any such cross-fertilised seeds used by the gardener for growing food in the following season can therefore potentially produce bitter and toxic fruit. Also, dry weather conditions/irregular watering can stress the plant and favour the production of the toxin. The toxin is not destroyed by cooking. Humans with an impaired sense of taste (particularly among the elderly) should therefore ask a younger person to taste the zucchini for them.[19] [20]

In August 2015, a 79-year-old German man and his wife ate a zucchini grown by a neighbour. The couple noted the unusually bitter taste. Shortly afterwards they were both admitted to Heidenheim hospital, apparently with symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection. The wife, who had eaten a smaller portion, survived, while the man died. Toxicological analysis of the meal confirmed the presence of cucurbitacin.[21]


Zucchini is one of the easiest vegetables to cultivate in temperate climates. As such, it has a reputation among home gardeners for overwhelming production. One good way to control overabundance is to harvest the flowers, which are an expensive delicacy in markets because of the difficulty in storing and transporting them. The male flower is borne on the end of a stalk and is longer-lived.

While easy to grow, zucchini, like all squash, requires plentiful bees for pollination. In areas of pollinator decline or high pesticide use, such as mosquito-spray districts, gardeners often experience fruit abortion, where the fruit begins to grow, then dries or rots. This is due to an insufficient number of pollen grains delivered to the female flower. It can be corrected by hand pollination or by increasing the bee population.

Closely related to zucchini are Lebanese summer squash or kusa (not to be confused with cushaw), but they often are lighter green or even white. Some seed catalogs do not distinguish them. Various varieties of round zucchinis are grown in different countries under different names, such as "Tondo di Piacenza" in Italy and "Ronde de Nice" in France.[22] In the late 1990s, American producers in California cultivated and began marketing round yellow and green zucchini known as "8-ball" squash (the yellow ones are sometimes known as "1-ball" or "gold ball").[23] White zucchini (summer squash) is sometimes seen as a mutation and can appear on the same plant as its green counterpart.


The longest zucchini measured 2.39 m (7 ft 10.3 in) on 17 October 2005 and was grown by Gurdial Singh Kanwal (India) in his garden in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.[24]


  1. ^ "Summer Squash". University of Illinois Extension. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Accademia della Crusca, Alcune varianti di nomi di frutti
  3. ^ Dr. D.G. Hessayon (2009). The Vegetable and Herb Expert. London: Expert Books. 
  4. ^ "Baby Marrow". AgriLink. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Panfried chicken with baby marrow and porcini". Woolworths Taste magazine. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  6. ^ "Zucchini". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  7. ^ O'Neill, Molly (August 15, 1999). "Food; How to Stuff a Wild Zucchini". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  8. ^ Zucchini Bread Chefs. "Zucchini Bread Recipes". Zucchini Bread Recipe Book. Retrieved 2011-10-19. 
  9. ^ Kathy Brown (2003). Edible Flowers. Anness Publishing Ltd. 
  10. ^ Wainwright, Martin (23 May 2005). "Onions come top for British palates". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  11. ^ Ramanathan, Lavanya (13 Aug 2014). "Squash blossoms offer petal power". The Washington Post. 
  12. ^ Lucas, Brenda. "Now is peak season for the low-cal vitamin-packed zucchini squash". Herald-Dispatch. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Mann stirbt an Garten Zucchini". Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "Auf den Geschmack kommt es an". Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  15. ^ LTHASKINS. "Stuffed Zucchini". Allrecipes.com. 
  16. ^ Rachael Ray. "Stuffed Young Zucchini". foodnetwork.com. 
  17. ^ canarygirl (24 June 2002). "Drop Dead Delicious Stuffed Zucchini". food.com. 
  18. ^ USDA Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database Basic Report: 11477, Squash, summer, zucchini, includes skin, raw
  19. ^ "Poisonous courgette warning". Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  20. ^ "Auf den Geschmack kommt es an". Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  21. ^ "Mann stirbt an Garten Zucchini". Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  22. ^ "Round Summer Squash". Long Island Seed Project. 2007-08-02. 
  23. ^ Pierce (June 4, 2013). "In season: Summer means squash". Dallas News. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Longest Zucchini Courgette". Gunness World Records. Retrieved November 10, 2014. 

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