Zucchini, also called courgette in the UK, is a versatile and delicious summer staple that can be enjoyed in various ways. Most people prefer to cook it, but can you eat zucchini raw? We’ll take a look at the benefits of the colorful squash and ways you can eat it.
A favorite in the culinary world for their ability to take on different flavors, zucchinis are also jam-packed with important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. To take advantage of all the nutrients, it’s best to avoid peeling the zucchini; all the good stuff is hiding in the peel! Zucchini is a good source of:
- vitamin B6
- vitamin A
- dietary fiber
But, Can You Eat Zucchini Raw?
Yes, you can eat zucchini raw. Just like many other vegetables, the nutrient count is actually higher when it’s not cooked. However, you do need to be careful about how you consume it. You can also ferment zucchini to make a type of relish!
What to Watch Out For When Eating Raw Zucchini
Zucchini, like other members of the gourd family, contains a bitter substance called cucurbitacin. This is a natural defense system to prevent insects from eating them. For humans, however, it can lead to digestive issues and even vomiting when consumed in large doses. Luckily, most cultured varieties available at grocery stores don’t contain enough to harm humans. This means that commercially purchased zucchini can be eaten uncooked without hesitation.
For those who are growing them themselves, you may want to be a little more careful when eating raw zucchini. There are several ways in which the cucurbitacin content can increase in your plants:
- Cross-pollination with wild plants
- Stress when growing due to irregular watering
- Over- or under-fertilization
An easy way to check is to try some. If you notice a very bitter taste, the cucurbitacin content is too high to eat, either raw or cooked. Spit it out immediately and throw your zucchini away. Otherwise, you may suffer from cucurbit poisoning, otherwise known as toxic squash syndrome.
It’s also important to note that zucchini allergies do exist: the most common symptoms include diarrhea and nausea. So, if you’re having a bad reaction when eating it, you may want to skip it next time.
How to Use Raw Zucchini
Zucchini has a very mild flavor so that it can handle plenty of seasoning. Consider using raw zucchini noodles aka zoodles for your favorite pasta salad recipe, or try your hand at zucchini carpaccio. Fresh, uncooked zucchini salad is another way to enjoy the summer squash raw.
Marinated Raw Zucchini Salad
- 1 lb. zucchini (mix of yellow and green)
- salt and pepper
- 2½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic, sliced
- 2½ tbsp. organic olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- crumbled feta (or vegan feta)
- fresh or dried oregano, to taste
- Wash the raw zucchini and slice as thinly as you can.
- Spread the slices out on a tray, sprinkle with salt and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Pat dry, then toss in a bowl with the lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
- Allow to marinate for several hours. Then remove the garlic, add in the sun-dried tomatoes, feta and oregano.
- Serve and enjoy!
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