It's hard to imagine a summer garden or produce stand that doesn't boast a bumper crop of zucchini. But the deep green squash is a relative newcomer to American farmers. "Zucchini became popular after the 1940s, with the growth of Italian cookery," says William Woys Weaver, author of 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From. "I have an extremely large collection of American menus, and I do not find zucchini listed under vegetables until the 1950s," he adds. Weaver credits the little gourd's (zucchini means "little gourd" in Italian) widespread success to its versatility, its adaptability to a wide variety of climates, its high yield in small gardens, and Americans' love of tomatoes. "Americans are big on tomatoes, and tomatoes and zucchini go together. They are cultural compatriots," he says. In addition to one zucchini-tomato recipe, we've got four other spectacular ways to use the squash. They all make it easy to see why zucchini's popularity is here to stay. Nutritional Profile 1 raw zucchini contains:
31 calories 2 g fiber 33 mg magnesium 514 mg potassium 33 mg vitamin C
Shopping Tips "For nutritional quality, organically raised heirloom zucchini are best; next best are organically raised hybrids," says William Woys Weaver. Look for heirloom varieties such as Cocozella di Napoli, Cocozella di Tripoli, and Ronde de Nice. Steer clear of zucchini that looks limp, dried out, or wrinkled, Weaver adds. "These are signs that the squash has begun losing water content and may cook to mush rather than hold their shape in a recipe."