When you think about the Mediterranean diet, staples like olive oil, fish, whole grains, and a multitude of fruits and vegetables probably spring to mind. While each of these ingredients plays a vital role in maintaining health and balance, there’s one vegetable that often slips under the radar despite its regular appearances on the Mediterranean table – the humble zucchini.
Zucchini, also known as courgette in the UK and parts of Europe, is a highly versatile vegetable, widely used in Mediterranean cuisine. It is packed with a variety of essential nutrients and offers a host of health benefits that align well with the diet’s overall principles.
Health Benefits of Zucchini
Rich in vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds, zucchini is a great way to add nutritional value to any meal.
High Nutritional Value: Zucchini is high in antioxidants, which protect your body from damage by free radicals. It’s also a fantastic source of vitamins C and A, crucial for a healthy immune system and vision, respectively. Moreover, zucchini is an excellent provider of potassium, a heart-healthy mineral and electrolyte, and vitamin B6, essential for brain development and function.
Low in Calories and Carbs: Zucchini is notably low in calories and carbs, making it an excellent choice for those following a low-calorie or low-carb diet. Its high water content means you can eat a lot of it without consuming many calories, helping you feel full and satisfied.
Good for Digestion: The dietary fiber in zucchini aids digestion by adding bulk to your diet and helping to prevent constipation and other digestive issues.
Heart Health: The fiber, potassium, and carotenoids found in zucchini may support heart health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Zucchini in Mediterranean Cuisine
Zucchini’s mild flavor and versatility make it an ideal ingredient in a range of dishes, aligning perfectly with the varied and flexible nature of the Mediterranean diet.
In Italy, zucchini is often used in pasta dishes, risottos, and salads. Zucchini flowers are considered a delicacy and can be stuffed with cheeses and herbs before being fried or baked.
In Greece, it is used in the popular dish Moussaka, while the Greeks also enjoy ‘kolokithokeftedes’, a delightful zucchini fritter.
The Middle Eastern kitchen also embraces the zucchini. In dishes like ‘kousa mahshi’, zucchini is hollowed out and stuffed with a delightful mix of rice, meat, and spices, showcasing the vegetable’s versatility.
Fun Facts About Zucchini
Beyond the kitchen and nutrition facts, zucchini has quite a few interesting aspects:
Zucchini is technically a fruit: While we often refer to zucchini as a vegetable, it is technically a fruit because it comes from a flower and contains seeds.
There’s a day for it: National Zucchini Day is celebrated on August 8th in the United States.
It can grow big, really big: The world record for the largest zucchini ever grown is 69.5 inches long, grown by Giovanni Batista Scozzafava in Niagara Falls in 2014.
Zucchini’s exceptional nutritional profile and the versatility that makes it a staple in the Mediterranean diet, along with its quirky trivia, should inspire everyone to incorporate it more into their meals. Whether grilled, stuffed, or spiraled into ‘zoodles’, zucchini is a fabulous, health-boosting addition to any plate.
Zucchini is just as plentiful in the Mediterranean as it is everywhere else which is why there are so many amazing Mediterranean zucchini recipes. On the island of Crete, zucchini is often fried or baked in extra virgin olive oil. If you like fried food, the zucchini recipes for zucchini fries and fritters will rock your world. Zucchini is also a great vegetable for anyone who is avoiding gluten. Below you will find a recipe for zucchini noodles that even pasta lovers like myself find equally as tasty as normal pasta noodles. Find our favorite zucchini recipes below. Enjoy!
Easy Skillet Zucchini Parmesan
Pasta with Zucchini, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Ricotta & Pine Nuts
Turkish Zucchini Fritters
Zucchini Fries with Tzatziki
These zucchini fries are crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. I dip these in refreshing tzatziki sauce for some coolness that compliments the fried flavor perfectly.
Zucchini Fritters with Feta, Cheddar, Mint and Parsley
This is it. My all time favorite recipe from Crete, maybe from the whole Mediterranean Diet: Zucchini Fritters by Koula Barydakis. How can one go wrong? Zucchini, onions, fresh mint, fresh parsley, two cheeses (feta and cheddar), bread crumbs, and eggs made into delectable morsels and then fried in extra virgin olive oil.
Gratin of Tomatoes and Zucchini
Staff members at Mediterranean Living enjoyed this dish immensely. The fresh summery vegetables simply melt in your mouth. The addition of traditional Mediterranean cheeses and the bright basil flavor make this recipe stand out among gratin recipes.
Zucchini Basil Soup with Lemon
A delicious gluten-free and dairy-free Zucchini soup by Craig Fear. You can see all of Craig’s amazing soup recipes, articles about bone broth, and intriguing blog posts on his site, Fearlesseating.net.
Zucchini Pie with Feta
Everyone in my family loves zucchini pie and you can eat it as a side dish, appetizer or main course. I even eat it for breakfast, sometimes on it’s own and sometimes with eggs. You can eat is warm or cold and it packs well as a snack for kids.
Zucchini Noodles Baked in Olive Oil
The recipe is super simple. Zucchini noodles, olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then use the zucchini just like you would if it were pasta.
Greek Omelette with Zucchini and Mint
Zucchini has been one of my favorite vegetables since childhood. Growing up, my family planted many vegetables in our garden and every spring I would wait and watch until the first zucchini started to grow.