If you are Italian, grew up with one, or know an Italian you may be familiar with the Italian summer squash called cucuzza (Ko-Koo-tza) or as my grandmother would call it “goo-GOOTZ” – slang for cucuzza!
As a child, it was fun to see “goo-GOOTZ”, a gourd, grow in my grandmother’s garden taking on different shapes.
Sometimes they looked like bowling pins, and more often they grew about 3-feet long and skinny, looking more like a baseball bat –which is why it has the nickname, “baseball (bat) squash.”
The outside skin is light green and tough and so better to peel the cucuzza before cooking and eating. The seeds are also edible seeds although you may need to remove them if they are too hard. The flesh inside is white and tastes like its smaller well-known cousin, the zucchini, which comes from the Italian word “zucca” –meaning squash. Zucchini, another variety of summer squash, was first grown in Italy during the 18th century and it wasn’t until the 20th century, that seeds were carried by Italian immigrants to the United States – ready to plant.
In our house my grandparents and relatives fondly called zucchini “goo GOOTZ-eal” -or- “goo-GOOTZ- elle.” I am no language-expert but by adding the suffix –eal or -elle, apparently is another endearing fun-loving Italian-Americanized way to identify this smaller version of the already prize-sized cucazzo (goo-GOOTZ).
Whether you call it zucchini or “goo-GOOTZ-eal” (which is so much more fun to say –Try it!) it is the only fruit, disguised like a vegetable, beginning with the letter “z”. Botanically zucchini squash is a fruit (like avocadoes, eggplant, and tomatoes) because it has a type of berry called a “pepo” which is the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower. That golden orange-yellow flower, after removing the stamen and pistil, also great in salads or cooked.Unlike cucuzza, the skin of the zucchini is tender and great to eat raw or cooked, which is why I personally prefer zucchini. For better taste, look for zucchini that is solid and firm, not spongy.
Cucuzza (goo-GOOTZ) and Zucchini (goo-GOOTZ-eal) are available from mid-summer to late fall. I especially find zucchini at every turn during July and August. My small, 4’ by 9‘- foot garden, has produced so much zucchini to the point that my “kitchen countertop” and “vegetable” crisper overflow!
Don’t worry though, you don’t need a garden to find zucchini in summer. They are EVERYWHERE! You may find yourself filling-up your cart from your farmers market or local grocery store because the price is too fabulous to pass up for that light taste and good nutrition! Low in calories, zucchini (or zucchina, the singular) is a good source of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A and fiber. One medium squash has 2-grams of fiber.
It does not matter if they are green, yellow, long or round shaped, the mature or baby size variety – they all work nicely for a meal, side or snack! Breads, salads, roasted, and stuffed Z-boats immediately come to mind when I see so much zucchini! To manage this abundance of zucchini, I polled my fellow Registered Dietitian Nutritionist colleagues for their favorite recipes – and in return received equally abundant ways they like to prepare and enjoy zucchini (“goo-GOOTZ -eal”)…
MAIN, SIDES, SALADS:
Turkey Meatballs Over Zucchini NoodlesToby Amidor, RDN
Bars. Breads and Muffins: