Cucurbita pepo

Cucurbita pepo

The courgette (Cucurbita pepo L.) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, United Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Cucurbitales Order, Cucurbitaceae Family and therefore to the Genus Cucurbita and to the C. pepo Species.
Some varieties of Cucurbita pepo are:
– C. pepo subsp. pepo – cultivated pumpkins, zucchini, orange pumpkins;
– C. pepo subsp. ovifera var. ovifera – to which most ornamental pumpkins belong;
– C. pepo subsp. ovifera var. Ozarkana – which are wild populations still present in the Mississippi valley and the Ozark plateau in the central United States;
– C. pepo subsp. ovifera var. Texan – which are the wild populations of Texas;
– C. pepo subsp. fraternal – the wild populations of north-eastern Mexico;

Etymology –
The term Cucurbita is the Latin name of the pumpkin, which, in turn, comes from the Sanskrit c’arbata curved, round.
The specific epithet pepo derives from pepo, peponis, the Latin name of the popone in Pliny & al.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
The courgette is an annual plant that was imported into Europe around 1500 after the discovery of America whose origin is located in Central America and more precisely on the highlands of Mexico.
According to some authors, Cucurbita pepo is derived from C. texana, while for others C. texana is simply a wild form of C. pepo.
The wild Cucurbita pepo is still found in the same areas as fraternal Cucurbita in Mexico. From the genetic point of view, C. pepo has more similarities with C. fraterna than C. texana. All the alleles of the studied C. fraterna are also found in C. pepo; which suggests that C. fraterna is the closest relative to C. pepo. For this reason, C. pepo is probably an early domestic form of C. fraterna.
Today zucchini is grown on all continents where it has a wide range of uses, especially for food purposes.

Description –
The courgette is a herbaceous species with bushy and creeping or climbing habit, with large dark green and tomentose leaves, ie covered with a soft and short down.
The flowers are yellow – orange, in the shape of a chalice, while the fruits have different shapes due to the cultivars introduced by man. They can be more or less long, dark or light green, round or lobed, with or without streaks.
The fruit is a peponide, with variable shape, size, consistency and external color, compact or watery yellow, orange or white pulp. Inside we find numerous seeds of (10) 12-25 x (3) 8-12 (17) mm, ovate, whitish, with obvious margin.

Cultivation –
The courgette is a plant that needs a mild climate in a sunny and well-ventilated position to grow well.
From an agronomic point of view, it is a renewal plant that opens a three-year rotation and is compatible with onions, climbing beans and lettuce.
It is cultivated starting from seed and they are planted directly from April to June, and in any case when the temperature, both day and night, remains above 20 ° C. Two or three are planted for each buchetta, vertically in the ground and with the narrowest part facing down: a long and deep vase can accommodate only one plant. For novice gardeners it is recommended to buy ready-made plants.
The soil must be well worked, deep and of medium texture, well drained to avoid stagnation of water and rich in organic substances. To obtain adequate yields and quality fruits in organic cultivation it is necessary to distribute four or five quintals of mature manure per hundred square meters. The manure must be buried at an average depth of forty centimeters.
On well-worked soils, if the plants are sufficiently spaced (density less than 1.4 plants per square meter) the yield can reach 40-45 fruits per plant even if typical values ​​are rather than 20-25 fruits per plant.
For the harvest of the fruits, for alimentary use, it is necessary to intervene in the period in which they still have modest dimensions (from eight to ten weeks from the sowing). In fact, with complete growth, the fruit has seeds that do not make it more edible in terms of quantity and size.
For the biological cultivation technique the following sheet can be consulted.

Uses and Traditions –
Courgette It is a vegetable whose cultivation began to spread in Europe in the 16th century. For its easy production it has long been a food destined for the minor classes.
It is a vegetable with a neutral taste, delicate, undefined, almost unripe. It is still gathered immature, so it maintains a neutral flavor that has allowed it to have countless culinary preparations.
Courgettes have found in the Italian gastronomy an authentic consecration in an infinite series of masterly regional variations. The neutral taste makes them very versatile in the kitchen: most of the traditional recipes use them mainly as a side dish, but they are also very tasty, raw, finely sliced, in salads.
Since the Cucurbita pepo was born in the highlands of Mexico – the first to cook it were the Aztecs but the consecration took place precisely in Italy.
The irresistible rise of the zucchetta also comes from its proverbial lightness that has made it a synonym of healthy, refreshing, low-calorie food. In short, to eat just and clean, seasoned with good intentions. Courgettes are now the symbol of an ideal of health, of balance, let’s face it, of renunciation. Until the pedagogical fury.
Italy is one of the major European zucchini producers. The flowers are consumed when they are still in bud and the fruits are very tender, just formed. The courgette is widespread in all regions, and specifically in Sicily, Lazio, Piedmont, Veneto, Puglia, Tuscany and Liguria.
Commercially, there are two basic types:
– light courgette, a product known on the markets of Genoa, Bologna and in some areas of southern Italy, is generically harvested with the flower. It may have a cylindrical shape tending to form a sphere in some local or elongated types;
– dark courgette, which by definition is the best known type in Lombardy and for export; it has an elongated shape, a dark green color and is gathered without a flower. The flowers are an edible part of the plant and can be breaded and fried.
Courgette is rich in water and low in calories, is a source of vitamins C and B9. The high potassium content and low sodium content gives it diuretic properties.

Preparation Mode –
The courgette is a vegetable whose ways of use are different according to the shapes and dimensions: they can be used boiled or fried after having cut them into slices and breaded, others still in the oven.
Courgettes come on their own or with other vegetables in various food preparations. Among the former they sometimes appear as a condiment for pasta or as one of the main ingredients of minestrone. The finely sliced ​​zucchini can also be cooked in carpione and served as an appetizer.
Other recipes include preparing a clove of garlic, an idea of ​​mint, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a tablespoon of minced meat, a sprinkling of breadcrumbs, etc.
It can be combined with the most diverse, sweet and savory ingredients. With the barley in the biscuits, with the lemon in the muffins, with the chocolate in the swivels, with the soya noodles in Chinese chicken, with garlic and yogurt in the Jewish panbrioche.
The flower of pumpkin or courgette flower (also called fiorillo), with an orange-yellow color, is widely used in the culinary field; for this reason the male flowers are used mainly those that have the stem, called peduncle, thin and that are destined, after pollination to dry. They are therefore picked when they are still turgid and generally used fried. Wanting to use feminine flowers, but already masculine ones there are enough, they must be cut off delicately, without damaging the ovary to which they are worn, where they do not damage it and thus lose it. Therefore, as already mentioned, the flower is usually used fried, to obtain dishes such as Neapolitan sciurilli or pumpkin flowers in “Roman” batter.
very tasty the sandwich with hemp and almond pesto, grilled zucchini, sesame and chia seeds, cherry tomatoes, Sicilian toasted almonds, extra virgin olive oil.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is assumed for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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