Zucchini is a small summer squash. It can be yellow, green or light green, and generally has a similar shape to a ridged cucumber, though a few cultivars are available that produce round or bottle-shaped fruit. In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Zucchini is one of the easiest vegetables to cultivate in temperate climates. As such, it has a reputation among home gardeners for overwhelming production.
Like all summer squash, it has its ancestry in the Americas. While most summer squash were introduced to Europe during the time of European colonization of the Americas, zucchini is Italian in origin, as the result of spontaneously occurring mutations. It was almost certainly brought over by Italian immigrants and was probably first cultivated in the United States in California.
Unlike cucumber, zucchini are usually served cooked. It can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques, including steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, or incorporated in other recipes such as soufflés. Zucchini can also be eaten raw, sliced or shredded in a cold salad, baked into a bread, and hot and barely cooked in hot salads, as in Thai or Vietnamese recipes.
In France zucchini is a key ingredient in ratatouille, a stew of summer vegetables prepared in olive oil and cooked for an extended time over low heat. The dish, originating near present-day Nice, is served as a side dish or on its own at lunch with bread. In Turkish cuisine, zucchini is the main ingredient in pancakes made from shredded zucchini, flour and eggs, lightly fried in olive oil and eaten with yogurt.
In Lebanon, zucchini is stuffed with minced meat and rice plus herbs and spices and steamed. It is also used in various kinds of stew. In Bulgaria, zucchini are fried and then served with a dip made from yogurt, garlic and dill. Another popular dish is oven-baked zucchini covered with a mixture of eggs, yogurt, flour and dill.
While easy to grow, zucchini, like all squash, requires plentiful bees for pollination. In areas of pollinator decline or high pesticide use, such as mosquito-spray districts, gardeners often experience fruit abortion where the fruit begins to grow then dries or rots. This is due to an insufficient number of pollen grains delivered to the female flower. It can be corrected by hand pollination or by increasing the bee population.