Zucchini, also known as baby marrow or courgette, is a type of summer squash that is a popular vegetable for home gardens. It is often used in various forms, from stews and soups to side dishes, sauces and pastas. It is also a popular ingredient in baking and is often put into baked goods such as zucchini chocolate cake, zucchini bread and even in cheese and zucchini muffins. It is low in calories and a good source of various vitamins, as well as dietary fibre.
If you want to grow your own zucchini, here’s how.
What Is Zucchini?
Zucchini, Cucurbita pepo, is also known as courgette or baby marrow. It is a type of summer squash that is a popular vegetable for home gardens due to its easy going nature and the abundant produce it provides. It is believed to originate from Central and South America, where it was first cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas.
Around the 16th century, it was brought to Europe by explorers and traders and it quickly became a mealtime staple during the warmer months. The first recorded cultivation of zucchini in Europe was in Italy, which is where its name today comes from. It is cultivated around the world and has become a staple ingredient in many cuisines, particularly in Mediterranean and Italian dishes.
How To Grow Zucchini
To grow zucchini it is best to start by picking a garden spot that offers well-draining soil and full sun exposure – raised beds, greenhouses, containers, or directly in the ground, it isn’t fussy, provided it has adequate drainage and water. The soil it is planted in should be amended with compost or other organic matter to improve fertility and drainage. Avoid planting it in areas that are prone to frost or cold temperatures, as this plant are incredibly sensitive to cold weather, and often will begin to die back if the temperature drops.
It can easily be transplanted as seedlings, or sown directly in their chosen spot. They should be planted in a hole that’s twice as big as the plant’s root ball. Water well before planting, and once it’s settled into its new home, give it a good water again. Ensure that the zucchini stem has been properly buried, up to the first set of its leaves.
Zucchini plants require consistent moisture to grow and produce fruit, so regular watering sessions are required, but avoid overwatering and drowning the plant. Try to water only at the base of the stem as water on the lead can lead to mould issues and fungal problems.
Regular fertilisation is a key way to keep the fruit coming and should be done when the flowers first begin to blossom. Usually, the fruit begins to form two to four weeks after planting it. These should be harvested around 15cm long, while they are still glossy – but don’t overharvest to begin with as it can reduce its fruit production in the long run.
Pruning regularly will help to keep your zucchini under control, and using a trellis or training the vines to climb can help to prevent a sprawling, ever-growing squash plant from taking over your entire garden.
When To Plant Zucchini
It’s best to plant zucchini in the early spring after the final frost date has passed – if you plan to sow them directly in the ground, or you can plant them indoors in seed trays around a month before the final frost date. Zucchini are a warm-season crop and prefer temperatures between 15 – 35°C as well as plenty of sunlight. However, if you’re in an area that has incredibly hot summers, erecting some kind of shade for them is a good idea, to prevent too much water loss or sun damage.
Where To Plant Zucchini
Zucchini plants are easy to grow and can thrive in a variety of locations, as long as they have access to full sun, well-drained soil, and consistent moisture. With proper care, they can provide a bountiful harvest of delicious, healthy fruits.
Garden beds, whether raised or in-ground, provide an ideal environment for the plants as they offer good drainage and you can provide properly fertile soil. Those who have limited space available to them will find containers can be a great alternative. Containers will need to be at least and should be at least 45 – 50 cm deep and just as wide, and filled with a high-quality potting mix.
The controlled environment provided by a greenhouse can also be highly beneficial for the growth of zucchinis, as well as extend the growing season and protect the plants from extreme weather conditions.
How To Plant Zucchini
When you want to begin growing zucchini, you can either start from seeds or from pre-bought seedlings. If you’re going the seed route, then they should be planted indoors about a month before the final frost date in the Northern Hemisphere and once they’re big enough, they can be moved outside after the frost has passed. In the Southern Hemisphere, they can be planted out in early springtime, directly in the ground, or can be started in seed trays and transplanted outside when large enough.
Give them some room to grow by planting them two feet apart in rows that are around five to six feet apart. Keep an eye on their moisture levels and water them regularly, especially during periods of intense heat or during dry spells. They’ll also need fertiliser every few weeks, especially when they begin to flower. In just over a month, up to 50 days, they should start producing fruit. Pick them when they’re around 15 – 20cm and are firm. When fertilising them, aged manure or compost is a good choice.
What Is The Meaning Of Zucchini?
Zucchini is a word borrowed from Italian, and in full is zucchino. It means small squash in its original language. Another name for zucchini is courgette, from French, which means small cucumber.
What Is A Zucchini’s English Name And What Is It Called In South Africa?
The zucchini plant has three commonly used names in English, all of which mean ‘small marrow’. The word zucchini is of Italian origin and is usually used as a plural (the word zucchina is usually used in Italian for one zucchini). Other names for zucchini that are used in English is the French name for it: courgette, and in South African English the term baby marrow is used.
Are Zucchini The Same As A Cucumber?
While zucchini and cucumbers have a very similar appearance, they are not actually part of the same family. It is part of the Cucurbita family, while cucumbers are members of the gourd family.
Is It Better To Eat Zucchini Raw Or Cooked?
Raw zucchini has a very similar nutrition makeup as zucchini which has been cooked, though it has less vitamin A within it. Raw zucchini has more vitamin C though since this tends to be greatly reduced when zucchini is cooked.
Is Zucchini A Fruit Or A Vegetable?
All squashes have seeds and are formed from flowers which turn into the final produce. Due to these characteristics, squash like zucchini is considered to be a fruit. However, when it comes to culinary use, it is usually treated as a vegetable.
An interesting fact is zucchini blossoms are considered to be a delicacy and can be eaten in a variety of ways – from being breaded and deep fried to being used to wrap around various types of meat or grilled vegetables, to being chopped up in salads and sauteed. People love zucchini blossoms as they are mild and easy to incorporate into many dishes.
What Are The Benefits Of Zucchini?
Zucchinis are a good source of folate, potassium, and vitamins, as well as many antioxidants such as zeaxanthin and lutein and vitamin B6. The plant contains compounds which help to combat oxidative stress, which in turn assists with cancer prevention. It’s also known to be a good choice for those who wish to improve their eye health, by filtering blue light wavelengths, and for those who wish to regulate their blood glucose.
All in all, zucchini is a good addition to any garden set-up. If you nurture it well, it will keep you happily eating its produce, in various dishes, throughout the warmer months of the year.