Zucchini and its ilk are the little black dresses — make that little green dresses — of summer vegetables. You can show off squash as the star of the meal or hide it away in a stew or a cake. It’s as easy to eat and easy to love as it is to grow.
“Like most vegetables, zucchini is low-carb and cholesterol-free and low in total and saturated fat,” she added in an email. “Additionally, zucchini contains carotenoids like lutein, which helps support skin health by providing a level of protection from the sun (but still wear your sunscreen).”
Whether you’re eating batons of zucchini, scalloped pattypans or curvy crooknecks, all varieties of summer squash are similar in nutritional value. However, Dudash notes that yellow squash contains a lot more seeds than zucchini, giving it a slightly higher fiber content.
Yes, you can eat it raw
Shaved squash salads are perhaps the simplest way to savor this vegetable in all its shapely varieties. Use a mandoline or hand-held vegetable slicer to make paper-thin slices of zucchini or other squash, then dress them up with vinaigrette.
Health-conscious eaters may want to skip the dressing, but Dudash recommends adding it. “Try to pair fat with your zucchini, since it helps boost the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, including lutein,” she said. “Drizzle on the olive oil, pair it with Parmesan, and so on.”
There’s also a slight vitamin benefit to eating raw zucchini. “When you cook zucchini, it releases a lot of water, therefore reducing the water content in the vegetable. Water-soluble nutrients, like vitamins B and C, will be higher in raw zucchini, since they leach out of the water released,” Dudash said.
Eat it cooked
Slurp up zoodles
Time-crunched cooks can always buy packaged fresh or frozen zoodles at the store, but with so much fresh zucchini in season, why not take a stab at making your own?
Inexpensive vegetable noodle gadgets are widely available online and in home goods stores, but you can also use a multipurpose julienne slicer to make thin wisps of zucchini noodles that melt into sauces and baked casseroles.
You can also freeze your homemade zoodles for serving after squash is out of season. Spiralize the zucchini, then gently squeeze and pat out any excess moisture with a non-terry cloth kitchen towel.
Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer-safe bag and store for no more than three months. Drop frozen zoodles directly into boiling water or thaw in the bag in your refrigerator before using, draining any extra liquid that might come out of the zoodles once they thaw.
Bake it into sweets
With its neutral flavor, zucchini has long been the go-to vegetable for parents trying to sneak a few more vitamins into their families’ desserts. Whether mixed with nuts and spices, chocolate or citrus, summer squash can adapt to any sweet disguise.
Casey Barber is a food writer, illustrator and photographer; the author of “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats”; and editor of the website Good. Food. Stories.