It turns out zucchini isn't technically a vegetable.

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Zucchini is one of our favorite summer vegetables. Why do we stock up on this veggie every week at the famers’ market? Well, for starters, zucchini is easy to cook, endlessly versatile, low in calories, and full of fresh summer flavor. It’s light and fresh, and it’s easily transformed by the addition of other ingredients, seasonings, or cooking methods. Zucchini is a blank canvas that we love experimenting with, especially in the hot months of summer when we’re craving cool seasonal veggies.

We’re breaking down everything you need to know about zucchini, from the vegetable’s technical roots to how to cook it in your favorite dishes. Now you can discover new ways to reinvent this summer staple.

Types of Zucchini

When you think of zucchini, you probably think of the long green vegetable that’s similar in appearance (but different in flavor) to a cucumber. This is the most common and recognizable type of zucchini: green zucchini. Zucchini is a part of the larger family of summer squash, a category that also includes saucer-shaped pattypan squash, two-toned zephyr squash, and yellow squash. Zucchini and yellow squash are not the same thing– while you can find yellow zucchini, the veggie still remains distinct from yellow squash, which is wider on the bottom and has more seeds than zucchini.

Although zucchini is commonly referred to as a vegetable, it is technically classified as a “pepo,” a type of many-seeded berry with a hard find. Other “pepos” include watermelon and pumpkin. We'll still refer to zucchini as a vegetable, though, because that's a classification we're not quite ready to let go of.

How to Store Zucchini

Fresh zucchini typically lasts about 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator. In order to ensure your fresh zucchini lasts as long as possible, store it in a plastic bag in the fridge and don’t wash your zucchini until you’re ready to cook. You can tell a zucchini has gone bad when the vegetable is mushy or the skin appears discolored, soft, or rotten.

How to Freeze Zucchini

Zucchini can be frozen to preserve it at the peak of its freshness. Cut the zucchini into slices and drop it in boiling water for one minute before blanching it in ice water. Arrange the zucchini so the pieces do not touch on a baking sheet, freeze until solid, and then transfer to a plastic freezer bag. Freeze for up to three months.

WATCH: How to Make Zucchini Bread

How to Prepare Zucchini

Zucchini can be prepared in myriad ways, and different recipes call for different cuts of the vegetable. No matter how you’ll be cooking your zucchini, start by washing it with water and slicing off the stem. Then you can slice into rounds, cut into sticks, peel into long ribbons, or spiralize into spaghetti-like strands. Each cut lends itself best to a particular preparation– for squash casserole, rounds will be best, but for grilling, long ribbons hold up well and won’t get lost in the grates of your grill. Follow your recipe’s instructions on how to prep your zucchini for any particular use.

How to Cook Zucchini

Zucchini is so versatile that it can be roasted, baked, grilled, roasted, fried, sautéed, or even served raw. In the summertime, simple roasted or grilled zucchini is a perfect barbecue side dish. Raw zucchini sticks are a great vehicle for crudité, and when you’re having company, there’s nothing that’ll please a crowd like a classic squash casserole. Zucchini is a wonderful ingredient for those trying to be health-conscious; zucchini noodles are a lighter, low-calorie option to supplement a big bowl of spaghetti, and after tasting Baked Zucchini Fries, you’ll never crave greasy potatoes again. You can even bake zucchini into your chocolate cake for a super-moist sponge. Here is a roundup of some of our favorite zucchini preparations.

How to Grow Zucchini

Thinking of growing your own zucchini? Check out our guide on how to grow summer squash, and our tips on how to keep it healthy.

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