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Zucchini (Zucca is the Italian word) is versatile as it can be eaten raw or cooked, in savory dishes and sweet.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2008 19:51 IST

Zucca is the Italian word for squash. And abbondanza is the Italian word for abundance.

Food expert Dave Barry describes the vegetable's growing prowess: “Minutes after you plant a single seed, hundreds of zucchini will barge out of the ground and sprawl around the garden, menacing the other vegetables.”

Zucchini (like all members of the summer squash clan) has soft, edible flesh and seeds. Its edible yellow blossoms have become a gourmet item (they're often deep-fried). The fragile flowers are typically available only to home gardeners and at some farmers markets.

Buying tips
Locally grown zucchini is available in winter for just a few more weeks, but zucchini from elsewhere is sold year-round. Buy those with shiny, taut skin and solid flesh, and a few bruises are okay.

Even though gargantuan zucchini snag all the limelight, the younger and smaller ones (from baby zucchini to those up to eight inches long) yield the best flavor.

Storing it
Zucchini's thin skin is easily nicked so handle it gently. It is recommended to store it in a perforated bag up to five days in the refrigerator's vegetable crisper.

Preparation tips
Just wash and dry, then trim the ends. One medium zucchini yields about one cup sliced vegetables.

Cooking suggestions
Zucchini is versatile. It can be eaten raw or cooked, in savory dishes and sweet. Cakes and breads, capitalising on the moistness and mild-sweet flavour of grated zucchini is fast gaining popularity among professionals and chefs.

Zucchini pairs well with eggs in omelettes and finds a wonderful partner with tomatoes in pastas, soups, on pizzas and in vegetable sautes.

Sliced into thin strips, zucchini also can be prepared like fettuccine.