The zucchini plural: zucchini or zucchinis; from Italian: zucchina , plural: zucchine) or courgette ,plural: courgettes) is a popularly cultivated summer squash which often grows to nearly a meter in length, but which is usually harvested at half that size or less. Along with certain other squashes, it belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo. The prevalent name for the plant in Italy (zucchina/e) is also commonly used spelled zucchini in North America and Australia. The name courgette is a French loan word and is commonly used in Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. Zucchini can be dark or light green, and generally have a similar shape to a ridged cucumber, although some round varieties are also available. A related hybrid, the golden zucchini is a deep yellow or orange color.
In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.
The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each emergent zucchini. The male flower grows directly on the stem of the zucchini plant in the leaf axils (where leaf petiole meets stem), on a long stalk, and is slightly smaller than the female. Both flowers are edible, and are often used to dress a meal or garnish the cooked fruit.
Firm and fresh blossoms that are only slightly open are cooked to be eaten, with pistils removed from female flowers, and stamens removed from male flowers. The stem on the flowers can be retained as a way of giving the cook something to hold onto during cooking, rather than injuring the delicate petals, or they can be removed prior to cooking, or prior to serving. There are a variety of recipes in which the flowers may be deep fried as fritters or tempura (after dipping in a light tempura batter), stuffed, sautéed, baked, or used in soups.
In Mexico, the flower is often used as an ingredient for soup, sopa de flor de calabaza, and it is quite popular in a variation of the traditional quesadillas, becoming quesadillas de flor de calabaza. Zucchini is also used in a variety of other dishes (rajas), and as a side dish.