Zucchini (Courgette, Italian Marrow, Summer Squash)
It is popularly grown by home gardeners as it is very versatile.
It can be prepared in a variety of ways, such as a veggie, eaten raw in salads, grilled, stuffed, battered and deep fried, or used in bread and cakes.
Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :
- Botanical Name:
Zucchini (syn.: Cucurbita pepo var. cylindrica).
- Common Names: Courgette, Italian Marrow, Summer Squash.
- Family Name: Cucurbitaceae.
- Etymology: The word Zucchini comes from the Italian zucchino, meaning a small squash. One of its common names, Corugette comes from the French word for this vegetable.
- Origin: Native to Mexico and the northern parts of South America. It is also cultivated throughout the world.
- Plant type:
An ornamental plant with edible flowers and fruits.
- Features: Zucchini is from the genus Zucchini that consists of about 60 species of flowering trees.
This Summer Squash which can reach nearly a meter in length is usually harvested immature at 15-25 cm as it taste better.
Its growth habit is more bush-like with stems that spread as much as 1 m with a basically upright growth.
The 30 cm heart-shaped leaves with wavy edges are supported by thick hollow stalks that are covered with stiff and prickly hairs.
There are many Zucchini hybrids that appear in many different shapes and colours.
Zucchini can be dark green, light green and even stripped.
A related hybrid, the Golden Zucchini is deep yellow or orange in colour.
It produces female and male flowers and requires a great number of bees for pollination or a gardener to aid in pollination.
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 on a long stalk and is slightly smaller than the female.
Only the female flowers produce fruits. Both flowers are edible.
- Culture (Care):
Zucchini or Summer Squash can be grown easily with least maintenance.
Light: Full sun.
Moisture: Moderate water requirements.
Do avoid watering the leaves to discourage powdery mildew and other fungi.
Humus-enriched, loamy and well-drained soils.
Others: Best to harvest the immature fruits when they are at 15-25 cm as they taste better.
Generally free from serious pests and diseases. Nevertheless, watch out for powdery mildew, squash bugs and cucumber beetles.
For subtropical and temperate regions: Hardiness: USDA Zone 3–11.
Zucchini or Summer Squash is very easy to cultivate in temperate climates. It will not tolerate any frost. Plant seed or transplant outside anytime after the danger of frost has passed, from early spring until midsummer.
Soil should be kept higher than 15°C to ensure germination.
A tender and an annual plant that needs a great number of bees for pollination. The fruits are harvested is their immature stage as they taste better. The flowers, mature fruits and leaves are edible too. The plant tends to bloom in early summer. Some gardeners have two main plantings i.e. one for early summer harvest and another for late summer and fall harvest.
- Propagation: Easily propagated from seeds.
- Usage: Zucchini or Italian Marrow is useful as food since it contains folate, potassium, vitamin A and other nutrients.
Zucchini can be prepared in many ways, such as a veggie, eaten raw in salads, grilled or used in bread and cakes as desserts. The flowers may be stuffed, sautéed, baked, battered and deep fried as fritters, or used in soups. Firm and fresh blossoms that are only slightly open are cooked to be eaten with pistils and stamens removed from female and male flowers respectively.
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