• Melissa Genee, RD

Vegetable of the Month - Zucchini


Photo created by Crystal Narten - FLIP Team

December is upon us and that means building snowmen, skating, drinking hot chocolate AND a new vegetable of the month! The vegetable of the month for December is zucchini!

Zucchini has gained popularity in recent years due to the ever-famous zucchini noodle or zoodle! This year the FLIP program even got on the zoodle train, which was a big hit with the kids and parents alike. But there’s so much more to zucchini than zoodles. Learn more about zucchinis and ways to use them in your kitchen below.

All About Zucchini

Zucchini, also known as courgette, is a summer squash that is actually not a vegetable at all! Say what? Zucchini is botanically considered a fruit! They form as the overgrowth of the zucchini flower, and therefore are classified as a berry. But since they don’t look, taste or act like other common berries such as blueberries and cranberries, we treat and consider zucchinis as vegetables!

Zucchini originated from South and Central America but can be grown in a wide variety of climates, including Edmonton! If growing zucchini in your garden, it is recommended to start them early April for harvest in late July, early August. And remember: zucchini are prolific growers and even a few plants can produce a huge bounty. Zucchini can grow to a whopping 1 meter in length, but most tend to be harvested when they are immature, measuring about 8 inches as smaller zucchinis tend to be more tender and tasty. Unfortunately, as zucchinis get very large, they start to become woody and less palatable. The zucchini flower is also edible and is considered a delicacy in many countries (namely Italy). The blossoms can be stuffed, fried and enjoyed as an appetizer. Yum!

When choosing zucchini, choose firm, unbruised and medium sized squash. Store your zucchini unwashed in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Zucchini skin will start to shrivel and wrinkle as they age - that’s a sign to use them up! They can also be blanched and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Why is it good for me?

  • Vitamin C - acts as an antioxidant and protects cells against damage.

  • Potassium - this mineral is vital for bone, kidney and nerve health.

  • Fibre - a medium sized zucchini has about 2 grams of fibre, including soluble and insoluble fibres. This helps keep us feeling full as well as preventing constipation.

  • Folate - also known as B9, folate is important for forming new proteins as well as promoting circulation.

  • Vitamin K - this vitamin is important for bone development, blood clotting and helps with protein metabolism.

Enjoying Zucchini

Zucchini can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, all year round. Here are some of my favourite ways to cook with zucchini:

  • Grilled! Grilled zucchini is the perfect side dish for chicken, shrimp or fish. Cut the zucchini lengthwise or in coins, toss with olive oil, spices and grill for about 2 minutes on each side.

  • Spiralized! With a spiralizer you can turn your cylindrical zucchini into long strands of tasty noodles (also known as zoodles)! Simply saute the zoodles in a small amount of heated oil for 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper and serve with tomato sauce. Zoodles do not need to replace traditional pasta, instead, toss some zoodles alongside spaghetti for an added boost of nutrients and texture.

  • Roasted! Roasting zucchini brings out a nutty and delicious flavour, enjoyed as a side for almost any meal. Try making zucchini fries - cut zucchini lengthwise into wedges, season with oil, spices and grated parmesan cheese and roast on high for about 15 minutes. Serve alongside a yogurt ranch dip and your kids will be asking for zucchini fries again and again!

  • Bake with it! Have you ever tried using grated zucchini in muffins, loaves, breads, brownies and pancakes? Thanks to their high water content, adding zucchini to baked goods keeps them moist and delicious. Try grated zucchini in my favourite chocolate zucchini bread!

  • Turn them into tots! What kid doesn’t like tater tots? Zucchini tots are a healthy alternative to tater tots and extremely kid friendly. Simply combine grated zucchini, eggs, bread crumbs, spices, and cheese, form into nuggets and bake until golden brown! And bonus! Zucchini tots freeze great. Make a double (or triple) batch and keep them handy for busy weekday meals.

How do you prepare zucchini? Comment below or show us your yummy recipes by tagging us on Instagram (@FLIPprogram) and using the hashtag #FLIPVegetableOfTheMonth.

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