The Dread Zucchini

Zucchini quiche, zucchini bread, zucchini noodles, zucchini fries, zucchini muffins, zucchini frittata, zucchini chips, zucchini sticks, zucchini curry, zucchini au gratin, zucchini in ratatouille, chopped up in a salad or on a pizza, tossed with pasta, layered in a lasagna, used in a chutney, marinated, sautéed, grilled, sliced, diced, fried, steamed, baked, stuffed, as a main course or a side dish, the zucchini has endless possibilities.

More commonly referred to as a courgette across Europe, they can be beautifully striped, a dark solid green, a sunny yellow or orange in color. They are much easier to cut than their thick-skinned siblings, like the pumpkin or the butternut. They are not prickly to the touch like their cousin the cucumber. Botanically speaking a fruit, picked young and small, or left to mature into a marrow, the zucchini is a most versatile and consumer-friendly culinary vegetable.

Both tasty and relatively neutral in flavor, the zucchini easily absorbs the aroma of the herbs, spices and other vegetables it’s prepared with. Low in calories, high in potassium and beta-Carotene, it is a healthy, filling addition to any recipe. Even the stunning flowers are edible, often served stuffed and/or deep fried.

The zucchini is abundant. They are easy to grow, tolerant of moderate climates, and one plant can produce anywhere from 3 to 5 kilos (6 to 10 pounds) of fruit in one season. Considering that a smallish zucchini weighs around 300g, that’s up to 16 per plant. That’s a lot of zucchini. It’s inexpensive bought commercially and can feed a lot of mouths at little cost. It stores well, can be frozen or canned and served well into the winter months.

I can’t think of one bad thing about the zucchini. It is a glorious food. Visually pleasing, versatile, easy to prepare, nutritious, cost-effective, tasty, plentiful.

And yet, growing up, my mom always referred to it as the Dread Zucchini.

Because, despite known techniques for tempering production, people who grow zucchini invariably find themselves with more than they know what to do with.

Zucchini season would roll around, and it was a running joke to steer clear of those friends who were growing zucchini so as not to get “stuck” with the surplus they would consistently attempt to pawn off on anyone they could. The Dread Zucchini was something to be avoided – a lesser, undesirable vegetable.

For most of my life, I had a poor opinion of the zucchini because of this bad rap. Because I associated it with dread. Because people grow too much of it, and rather than appreciate and rejoice in this abundance, rather than feel gratitude, we feel overwhelmed, bored, burdened.

Why is it that those things that are rare, few, obtained with difficulty, we tend to revere? And those things that come easily, readily and in abundance, we tend to disdain?

And, isn’t it astounding how one word can have such an impact on perception?

Food for thought.



This text is originally from my newsletter, Making Connections, and may have been modified for publication here.