Is Zucchini a Vegetable? No, zucchini is not a vegetable. All zucchini are botanically classified as a fruit. Zucchini have seeds for their plant while vegetables do not have seeds at all. To define a vegetable is to describe it as an edible plant part or parts consumed as food. These include the the stems, roots, leaves or tubers of the plant. Even though a zucchini is a fruit, it is widely considered to be a vegetable and the USDA classification only helps to complicate the issue.
A zucchini is a summer squash harvested and eaten while still immature. They are a fruit that is the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower. As zucchini are immature, they have a softer skin compared to other more mature squash varieties harvested later in the season.
For culinary purposes, zucchini are often cooked the same as you would regular vegetables. Slice them into thin noodles for a nice change in a pasta dish or roast them in the oven with your other roasted vegetables.
Are zucchini good for you?
Zucchini are considered to have significant health benefits and are loaded with nutrients. There’s a full list of vitamins and minerals packed in there and zucchini contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber increases your healthy gut bacteria which in turn aids in digestion. Praises of their health benefits include everything from reducing cholesterol to improving heart health. Zucchini are also loaded with lutein and Zeaxanthin, two antioxidants which have been found to aid in vision.
Can you eat zucchini raw?
Yes, zucchini vegetables can be eaten raw. For instance, zucchini can be served raw in a salad. My personal preference has them seeded and peeled of course and thrown right in the salad julienne style. While I know a few people who will only eat their zucchini raw if its pickled first before putting zucchini in their salad. Slicing zucchini thin for sandwiches is a great idea for eating it raw.
I will usually peel and seed the zucchini prior to slicing. The skin adds an unwanted bitter taste in my opinion and I’m someone who likes bitter tastes added in to food. As I said, it’s really down to personal preference but there certainly isn’t anything wrong with eating zucchini raw.
Is it better to eat zucchini raw or cooked?
Zucchini generally are considered to have more nutrients when consumed raw. When you cook zucchini you are cooking the water out and similarly, you can expect some of the nutrients to go along with it. That being said, cooked zucchini are plenty healthy. Zucchini generally have less nutrients than their winter squash cousins because winter squash is more mature and are considered to have more starches and sugars. Zucchini are more often cooked than eaten raw but it really depends on your preference and use. Neither way is “better” than the other.
Should I peel zucchini before cooking?
You’ll find people on both sides of this argument because zucchini can be eaten both ways and seemingly have no problems for those that didn’t peel their zucchini. This is accentuated by the fact that many people believe most of the nutrients for a zucchini are in the skin because of the green color. However, “healthy” isn’t necessarily defined as something with green color. Sometimes even if a food has nutrients in it, there may be something else lurking that would negate the benefits of the nutrients. Zucchini is such a food if you are trying to avoid lectins.
Lectins are a plant based protein that are avoided by many people because of the inflammatory symptoms that usually accompany the foods lectins are in. Aside from that, the cucurbitacin in zucchini may cause stomach issues and the cellulose in zucchini can be harder to break down for the human body, so there may be discomfort for some people.
Zucchini skin contains a a good amount of that bitter cucurbitacin. This is the plant’s natural defense system. The chemical protects against insects eating them. In humans, ingesting cucurbitacin may lead to digestive issues for those sensitive to the chemical.
Are zucchini and cucumber the same?
Zucchini and cucumbers are not the same. They are from the same gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). However, the cucumber can be more considered a creeping vine plant while the zucchini is a summer squash. They have a few similarities. Both may be green. Both zucchini and cucumbers come in shades of yellow and white too, but most would recognize there “green” variety. Both of them have seeds as well. Both zucchini and a cucumber are considered vegetables while they are both actually fruit.
However, cucumbers and zucchini are far from the same fruit. There are significant taste differences between the two and as a result they’re used in different (and some similar) ways. You can pickle zucchini but “pickles” (as we’ve come to know them) are actually cucumbers sliced or spear quartered that have been left in a “pickling” solution. Zucchinis tend to taste a little more bitter than a cucumber (especially with the skin).
I also find zucchinis do a better job of taking on hearty more savory flavors while holding up to the heat of cooking better than cucumbers. Cucumbers tend to have more of a refreshing taste to my palate and I prefer them in salads or drinks. Zucchinis tend to have a firmer texture so they make good ingredients in bread like you would carrots for a carrot cake.
Can you swap zucchini and cucumber in recipes?
Yes, you can swap a zucchini for a cucumber in most recipes and vice-versa but expect differences. Time cooked will effect texture in the end. Both the zucchini and the cucumber are from the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). They are still slightly different and they have different flavor profiles in my opinion.
However, swap out a seeded and peeled cucumber with a seeded and peeled raw zucchini in a salad, and it’s likely no one will know the difference until you tell them. Both zucchini and cucumbers have a lot of water in them and the texture is mostly the same. I find zucchini to be firmer and more resistant to the heat when it comes to breaking down the texture while cooking and zucchini can be more resistant to falling apart in stews or similar dishes.
Are zucchini a nightshade variety of a vegetable?
Zucchini are not a nightshade. Cucumbers are not nightshades either. Both of these are mistaken for the nightshade variety but they are not. Nightshades are usually confined to tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and white potatoes and a few more. Nightshade varieties are unique because they are plants that contain small amounts of chemicals called alkaloids. These alkaloids cause physiological changes in the body. Morphine is an example of a plant-based medicine that contains alkaloids. Tobacco is an example of a nightshade plant with chemicals shown to cause cancer.