So, What’s The History of Courgettes?
Courgettes (botanical name: Cucurbita pepo) have existed in Central and South America for thousands of years. In fact, archaeologists found ancient seeds in Mexican caves that are thought to date back around 10,000 years! [Source]
There are lots of different varieties, but the seeds of the modern green courgettes (that we know and love) were brought to the Mediterranean and Africa around 500 years ago by famous explorer Christopher Columbus after his legendary voyages around the world.
Why Do Americans Call Them Zucchinis?
Fun fact for you, in Italian, the word “zucca” means squash, and the word “zuchhino” means small squash (and technically, courgettes are actually summer squashes). It was Italians who refined the green Italian squash (the common breed we see a lot today), hence the mass adoption of the word "zucchini" in Canada, the USA, and Australia.
In case you're wondering where us Brits got the word "courgette" from, it's a French loan word. In France, the word “courge” means gourd/marrow.
Which Plants Are Courgettes Related To?
Courgettes are members of the cucurbit family, and they’re related to cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes, watermelons, and gherkins. Also - although we call courgettes a vegetable, they’re technically a fruit because they have seeds!
How Should I Eat Courgettes?
There are so many ways to eat courgettes - such as grilled, fried, breaded/baked (a nice alternative to french fries), or as a core ingredient in sauces, lasagne, or even in cakes!
They’re low in calories (roughly 18 calories per 100g) and a great low carb option too (roughly 1.8g of carbohydrates per 100g). [Source]
Critics would say courgettes are bland - but the beauty is, they absorb the flavour of what’s cooked with them, such as herbs, spices and sauces, so really, they're a perfectly versatile vehicle for an eclectic mix of ngredients. You just need to cook them wisely and embrace their delicate flavour. Top tip - when buying a courgette, smaller is often better, as many chefs think these have better flavour. Also - look for glossy rather than dull skin!
In case you're wondering how we use courgettes at HIIT HQ, here are three recipes on our current menu that have courgettes in them:
1) Turkey Lasagne with Roasted Courgettes, Red Peppers and Asparagus on the side
2) Slow Roasted Vegan Tomato Arancini with Baked Ratatouille (packed full of courgettes), Pesto Green Beans, and Red Pepper Puree.
3) Lemon and Herb Chicken served with Bulgur Wheat Salad, Tzatziki, and Roasted Vegetables (including courgettes).
What Are The Health Benefits of Courgettes?
There are so many health benefits of courgettes - from aiding digestion to boosting energy, helping with heart health, eye health, circulation, lowering blood sugar, aiding weight loss, hydration, and so much more! [Source]
Here are some of the key components of courgettes and their related health benefits.
Water - Courgettes have a high water content (almost 95%) which means they’re great for hydration.
Potassium - The potassium in courgette (which is mostly contained in the skin) is great for blood pressure, digestion, heart rhythm, and our muscles. Potassium is a mineral which your body doesn’t produce naturally, and it’s an electrolyte too, which helps ensure our muscles work properly while regulating the heartbeat. [Source]
Antioxidants - As well as high potassium levels, courgettes are high in antioxidants - especially carotenoids, which are good for eye, skin, and heart health. These are most highly concentrated in the skin. [Source]
Fibre - Courgettes are great for gut health and digestion as they contain both soluble and insoluble fibre - the soluble fibre feeds your gut bacteria, and the insoluble fibre helps food pass through your body more easily. [Source]
Vitamin C - As mentioned in our previous blog post about Vitamin C, our bodies can’t produce or store Vitamin C naturally, so it’s important to get it from our diet. A cup of courgette is around 35% of an adults RDA of vitamin C. This is great for immune function, as well as maintaining healthy skin, bones, and blood vessels. [Source]
Vitamin K - The VItamin K content in courgette helps with healthy bones and blood coagulation. [Source]
So that’s it - a whistlestop journey into the wonder that is “the courgette”. From lowering blood sugar levels, to supporting circulation, boosting energy, and aiding digestion - we’re sold on this incredible vegetable. You can check if courgette is on this week's HIIT menu here.