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Zucchini - the healthy "cucumber berry"
The zucchini belongs to the pumpkin family. More specifically, it is a subspecies of the garden squash. Her male and female sexual organs lie in separate flowers on a plant. Not only are they a versatile vegetable, they also contain important medicinal substances.
Zucchini: nutritional values
Zucchini are suitable for a diet: they shine with very few calories, since like all pumpkins they contain a lot of water. 100 grams contain 150 milligrams of potassium, 30 milligrams of calcium, 25 milligrams of phosphorus, 3 milligrams of sodium, 1.5 milligrams of iron, as well as copper, zinc and fatty acids, plus vitamins A, B 1, B 2, B 6 and C.
Lose weight with zucchini
The cucumber-like vegetables are ideal for a diet. The minerals, vitamins and fatty acids counteract a lack of nutrients. The large amount of water ensures that the body receives enough fluid. Dietary fiber also stimulates digestion and, despite the low calories, leads to a feeling of satiety.
The pumpkin fruits lower the level of cholesterol in the body because the fiber binds to the bile acids that the liver creates from cholesterol to digest fat. Because the fiber attaches itself directly to the bile acid and thus ensures that it processes fat immediately, the liver draws more cholesterol out of the body to produce more bile acid. This lowers the cholesterol level throughout the body. The high levels of vitamin A and vitamin C in the zucchini also keep cholesterol from oxidizing in the blood vessels, which in the long run reduces the onset of atherosclerosis.
The fiber it contains is a good way to prevent cancer by washing toxins from the cells that can cause cancer. Vitamin C and beta-carotene in the zucchini help the cells protect themselves against substances that contribute to colorectal cancer. But be careful: Dietary fiber is of little help in suppressing cancer that has already broken out.
Like other pumpkins, zucchini relieves the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, which includes problems with urination and sexual potency in men.
The vitamins A and C contained not only act as antioxidants, but also effectively against inflammation. Together with the copper in the pumpkins, they inhibit many inflammation-based diseases such as asthma and rheumatic diseases, and also relieve the pain associated with these symptoms.
The Italian pumpkin
Courgettes are literally pumpkins, because "zucca" is the name of the pumpkin in Italy. Here the zucchini was also bred from the American garden squash in the 17th century. Meanwhile, a "zucchini" in Italy is called "Zuccino", the name we know is just the majority, which we translated into German also apply to the single fruit.
Berries that look like cucumbers
The resemblance to the cucumber is obvious and some people actually believe that they are cucumber. Like all pumpkin fruits, they are organic berries. These “pickle cucumbers” take the form of cones or clubs, are straight or crooked, green from very light to very dark, monochrome, striped or spotted, but also yellow or white.
The taste is similarly neutral as that of cucumber, but the meat is firmer - so they are also much better than vegetables. Small zucchini taste more intense, large ones weigh up to two kilos, but we usually harvest them with a weight of half a pound. They taste best young and fresh. Therefore, make sure that the fruit stalk is dry. Then the fruit is too old.
We sow zucchini in Central Europe in April / May. The plants have few requirements, but need a lot of humus and an evenly moist soil. As pumpkins, they need at least 1.5 square meters of space per plant. The seeds germinate in about two weeks.
Pumpkins are heavy feeders. You should therefore incorporate up to five liters of ripe compost into the soil per square meter of soil and ideally put nettle slurry into the irrigation water once a week. A thick layer of grass clippings is also great. Pumpkin plants should be watered regularly in the morning - lack of water can lead to an increased concentration of bitter substances.
The plants go well with beans, cucumbers, potatoes, lettuce, melons, tomatoes and corn.
Zucchini grow so fast that after three to four weeks snails are no longer an existential problem, but before that they are a massive one. Snails love zucchini and some amateur gardeners experience their blue miracle when they come to their garden the day after a thunderstorm and thinks they're crazy because there is nothing left where the plants were. At first, you should secure the zucchini, for example by means of snail fences, or by pulling them in buckets that arch outwards.
Once this phase is over, you can harvest the fruit later in the summer. As a rule, they are harvested when they are between 15 and 30 cm long. At this age, they last about 12 days. Do not store zucchini near tomatoes or apples. These give off ethylene, which leads to faster ripening and rot.
If you let the “small pumpkins” ripen in the garden, they will weigh up to five kilograms and form their “tank”, the shell will be wooded. To get to the meat, you must now remove the peel like with pumpkins.
After six to eight weeks of growth, you can harvest about five zucchini per plant per week.
Warning: bitter zucchini can be poisonous
Does your harvest taste bitter? Get rid of it, there is potential danger to life! The cucurbitans, which are the bitter substances in pumpkins, attack the stomach and intestinal mucosa. Such bitter substances accumulate particularly when seeds cross back or the zucchini crosses with other types of pumpkin. Therefore, you should never plant zucchini near other pumpkins, especially not near ornamental gourds. A 79-year-old man died in Heidenheim after eating zucchini himself. These poisons are bred out of zucchini, which they buy commercially.
The rule of thumb applies in the garden: if the fruit tastes neutral to sweetish, it contains no toxic substances.
The fertilization of plants is a science in itself. Most of them have mainly male flowers at first, the female ones only show themselves when there are enough leaves to feed the fruits. But the zucchini throw off the female flowers after a short time, and if the temperature gets too high, the male pollen becomes "impotent". But it is rainy sticking the pollen. To be able to harvest safely, cut off some male flowers and brush the pollen into the female flowers with a brush.
In the kitchen
Zucchini can be used extensively in the kitchen. The general rule is that yellow zucchini have thinner skins than green ones and are therefore more digestible when raw. Classically cut the fruit into slices, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt like pepper.
We wash the zucchini and cut off the ends. Depending on the preparation, we cut them in half, cut them into strips, slices or cubes. Garlic, rosemary, oregano and nutmeg are suitable for seasoning. They harmonize with peppers, tomatoes and eggplants, but also with sheep's cheese and lettuce, melon, shallots and onions. They go well with fish, meat, chicken, turkey and pasta. They can be cooked, baked, roasted and grilled. If you braise zucchini with onions, the fruits get more flavor.
They go well with: peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, mushrooms, corn, onions, leeks, carrots, corn, cauliflower, white cabbage, rose and Chinese cabbage, beans, peas, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, pasta, bulgur. Spices include oregano, thyme, rosemary, paprika, parsley and chilli.
Since zucchinis have a high water content, they often become mushy after freezing. This can be avoided with a little kitchen trick. In principle, smaller specimens are more suitable for freezing. These should be washed off with cold water and dried. Now cut the zucchinis into slices or pieces, put them in a sieve and sprinkle some salt over them. The salt removes water from the vegetables, making it easier to freeze. After about five minutes, drain the water that has escaped, place the pieces in a freezer-proof container and place in the freezer.
Another way to preserve zucchini is by pickling in vinegar. For this you need
- Mason jars,
- Balsamic vinegar,
- Mustard seeds.
The mason jars should be boiled before use. Wash, clean and slice the zucchinis. One kilo of zucchini can be chopped into one or two onions, three to four cloves of garlic, a sprig of thyme, a third bunch of chives and a sprig of rosemary and put in a saucepan with 500 milliliters of water. Add about a tablespoon of salt, about a tablespoon of pepper, two teaspoons of mustard seeds and a third liter of balsamic vinegar. Place the zucchini slices in the broth and heat until cooked. Let it cook for two to three minutes. Now carefully fill the preserving jars to the brim with the still hot pot contents, close immediately and let cool downside down. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Tepperwein, Kurt: The great BodyFit book for body and soul, mvg Verlag, 2007
- Hanelt, Peter et al .: Mansfeld’s Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops: Except Ornamentals, Springer, 2001
- Cutter, Teresa: The Healthy Chef - Purely Delicious, The Healthy Chef, 2015