tenwaystoenjoyzucchinibytheicdietprojectTen Ways To Enjoy Summer Zucchini

You know it is mid-summer when neighbors and co-workers start to give away baskets of zucchini from their heavily fruited vines to everyone they meet. You don’t need to blink; you read that little bit of trivia correctly. Zucchini develops after the plant goes through its flowering phase and is botanically a fruit.

Nutritionally and in the culinary world, however, zucchini more closely resembles a vegetable. This versatile squash is served mostly in savory dishes and packs a high nutritional punch for only 34 calories in a 200 gram serving (the equivalent of one medium zucchini). Zucchini is also a fantastic, bladder- friendly source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber; it even supplies a small amount of protein. These qualities are also valuable for those of us who are watching our weight!

Zucchini plants are easy to grow in home gardens, and many people cultivate them successfully in planters (just string up the vines with secure twine or wire as they grow!). Plants produce in as little as 35 days, making zucchini a terrific mini-agriculture lesson for children and adults alike―the exciting changes from seedling to flowering vine to edible food can be observed day-to-day! Properly tended, one plant can supply three to nine pounds of food over a two to three month period of time. No wonder your neighbors and co-workers are so generous this time of year!

It is a good thing then, that there are literally hundreds of ways to use this inexpensive and prolific food! Here are ten ideas to jump start your imagination:

  1. For a healthy snack, cut a small to medium zucchini into strips and serve with your favorite vegetable dip. (Try the Buttermilk Basil Vegetable Dip below!)
  2. For a fun brunch or breakfast idea, zucchini fritters are fresh, savory and unique enough to create special family memories. Combine one beaten egg with a cup of grated zucchini, a dusting of flour and parmesan cheese, some fresh herbs (basil, parsley, etc.) and your choice of grated cheese. Cook with olive oil or butter until lightly browned on both sides and serve hot!
  3. For a quick appetizer, zucchini bruschetta will please everyone. Top thin slices of sourdough bread with a slice of mozzarella cheese, a couple of thin, slices of zucchini, a dash of fresh rosemary and lemon zest. Broil till cheese is melted!
  4. For a light, refreshing salad, peel zucchini into long, thin slices. Toss with lemon juice (or lemon peel if you’re really acid sensitive), a TBSP of olive oil, dash of salt and a handful of fresh, chopped basil.
  5. For kale lovers, try serving fresh kale with thinly sliced zucchini, dash of olive oil, seasoned to taste with salt. Top with your favorite toasted nuts.
  6. For a fabulous, kid friendly side dish, slice a medium zucchini lengthwise into strips and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil over the slices. Season with Italian seasonings, salt, pepper (if tolerated), and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
  7. If you love a good stir-fry, simply toss zucchini slices with red and yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and onions into a wok with olive oil. Season to taste with soy sauce and serve with steaming hot rice.
  8. For a light pasta, add sautéed chopped zucchini and other vegetables (shredded carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, onion, and spinach) to an Alfredo sauce, then toss with your choice of noodles (quinoa, corn, wheat or rice) and cheese (mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan) for a quick and easy pasta primavera.
  9. Need to cut your carbs yet want some comfort food? Just use lengthwise slices of zucchini in place of pasta for a fabulous lasagna. Using Prelief before the meal can help reduce the acid of the tomato sauce
  10. For a healthy dessert, you can’t go wrong with zucchini bread or muffins. This is a great way to use the large and/or leftover fruit. Start with the basic Zucchini Bread/Muffin below and then adapt for your own tastes! Try playing with yellow vs. green zucchini for different colors and flavors. Grated zucchini also blends well with carrots and/or apples too!

So, there you have it! Zucchini is an inexpensive, easy, and fun to grow vegetable that is really a fruit―don’t forget to wow your friends with that fact―that is low in calories but high in nutrition and fiber, and that you can use raw or cooked in countless dishes from baked goods to lasagna. What’s not to love?