Beans, cholesterol, constipation, Cook, coriander, Corn, Courgette, Cucurbita, cumin, diet, digestion, Fruit and Vegetable, Home, Kousa Mahshi, Maize, Marrow, mint, Organic cooking, Organic gardening, parsley, Squash, tomatoes, United States, Zucchini
I have been asked several times what the plants were that appeared in this photo within the “Forking good exercise” post (which dealt with preparing the ground before planting).
There is corn (maize), beans and squash. These were known since ancient times as the “three sisters”. They grow well together because the corn acts as poles for the beans to climb. The beans capture nitrogen and make it available to the corn and squash. And the squash acts as a ground cover that keeps the moisture in whilst smothering weeds. In short they create their own micro system.
Squash is believed to have first been cultivated approximately 10,000 years ago in the central area of America (approx Mexico to Guatemala) and it was one of the key crops of Native Americans along with maize and beans. These crops led to a transition from hunter-gatherer tribes to agricultural villages, so they literally did change civilization. They are also a great example of crops being complimentary to each other.
Squash are of the genus Cucurbita and zucchini are of the species pepo, along with acorn squash, summer squash and most pumpkins. Zucchini (courgette in French, or marrow in British English) is a type of squash that originated in the Americas. The Native American Narragansett language word “askutasquash”, which meant green thing eaten raw, evolved into the English word “squash”. “Zucchini” comes from the Italian “zucchini” which means small pumpkin. The alternative name “Courgette” comes from the French word for pumpkin “courge”. The species that we now think of as zucchinis were developed in Milan and then Tuscany in Italy around the end of the nineteenth century. They were brought into the United States by Italian immigrants in the 1920s and they would have been introduced to Australia in a similar way. The Lebanese zucchini has a range of names such as Coosa, Cousa, Cusa, Cushaw, Koosa, Kousa, Kusa, Kuta, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Vegetable Marrow, White Bush and Bianco di Trieste.
Varieties include Profit, Clairimore, Greybeard, Basima, Ishtar, Magda, Aban and Alexandra.
Zucchinis are treated as a vegetable being savoury rather than sweet, but botanically they are an immature fruit as they are the swollen ovary of the female flower. They are harvested during their growth period, normally being picked at 10 to 15cm long, however if left to maturity they can reach a metre. Zucchinis can be eaten raw or with minimal cooking. Both male and female flowers are considered a delicacy in most cultures and even the stems and leaves can be eaten as greens.
The flowers are either stuffed and baked or cooked in a light batter after the pistels or stamens have been removed. They can also be used in soups. The zucchini fruit itself can be steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, or fried. The favourite Lebanese dish of stuffed Lebanese zucchinis “Kousa Mahshi”, involves stuffing them with mince flavoured with parsley, mint, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. They are then braised in a tomato sauce.
The Bed-raggled Princess‘es Kousa Mahshi recipe.
- 15 smaller zucchinis
- 1 cup rice
- 200 grams lamb mince
- 2 tablespoons very soft or melted butter
- Spices – Lebanese seven spices is a good mix – but you can use cumin, mixed or all spice, pepper, corriander (dried or fresh), or anything you fancy. Some people also add small quantities of fresh parsley and fresh mint.
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1-2 fresh ripe tomatoes (if desired)
- Wash zucchinis as they can be prickly to the touch. Cut off stalks of zucchini and the dried end on the other side (just a sliver so as to keep the zucchini intact).
- Hollow out zucchinis with a long corer, leaving a wall of around 5mm depth (the corer can be purchased at a middle eastern shop. Alternatively, use a very small knife but be very careful so as not to puncture the wall of the zucchini). Place 1 teaspoon of salt in a bowl of water and wash the zucchinis – the salt will assist the zucchinis in maintaining their shape when cooking. Stand zucchinis in a bowl with opening face down so as to drain out the water.
- Stuffing: Wash and drain rice. Mix rice, mince, butter, parsley, mint and spices thoroughly.
- By hand, lightly fill each zucchini with the stuffing, leaving a space of around 1cm from top to allow rice to expand. Note – filling too firmly will also not allow rice to expand.
- Arrange zucchinis in a large pot. Pour water into pot and completely cover zucchinis (say 2 cm water over level of zucchinis). Add the tomato paste, salt to taste, and if you wish, chopped fresh ripe tomatoes. Bring to boil.
- Reduce heat to very low and simmer for around 45 minutes.
Zucchini are low in calories, but high in folate, potassium, vitamin A and manganese.
Zucchini is low in calories but high in dietary fibre, this aids digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar and discourages overeating.
- Lowering Cholesterol
The dietary fibre in zucchinis attaches to bile acid and smothers it so the body uses more cholesterol to make more for digestion, thus lowering cholesterol levels. Vitamins A and C also stop cholesterol from oxidising in blood vessels.
- Cancer Prevention
The dietary fibre encourages bowel movements, so toxins don’t remain in the colon for long. Also the folate and vitamins A and C are antioxidants.
- Prostate Health
The phytonutrients inhibit prostate gland enlargement.
Vitamins A & C and copper act as anti-inflamatories which help control asthma and arthritis.
- Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention
Magnesium and folate have both been found to be important factors in reducing heart attacks and strokes.
- Lower Blood Pressure
Potassium and magnesium alleviate stress on the circulatory system.
- High in Manganese
This trace mineral and nutrient helps metabolise protein and carbohydrates and is involved in the production of hormones, enzymes and amino acids essential for good health.
The main pest is “Powdery Mildew”, which can be cured organically by using one part full cream milk to 10 parts water sprayed on.
Interestingly the government has also stopped the use of dimethoate on zucchinis. It has commonly been used in both domestic and commercial pesticides.
Other examples of complimentary plants
Another group that I like is to plant tomatoes, basil, garlic and marigolds. Often if plants combine well when eating, they also combine well when growing and what works better in cooking than tomato and garlic or tomato and basil? The aromas from the garlic, basil and marigolds deters pests from the tomatoes naturally. Now some bugs can get through and if they do I don’t get upset, I just use those tomatoes as seed for the next crop. If you select heirloom varieties rather than sterile hybrids they are easy to grow.
This is a far better approach than dosing everything in chemical poisons that kill the pests and also the natural predators such as ladybirds. All that means is that the pests comeback and you have no predators to keep them in check, so you end up needing even more toxic chemicals because now you have an infestation. Also pests find their target plants when they recognize the leaf shapes and the scents. If you mix plants together, rather than having neat rows of mono crops, it makes it harder for them. The bottom line is if I lose the odd tomato I would rather do that and have a natural eco system operating than to have ingest perfectly unmarked toxin laden crops!
So how do you prepare these? I slice the tomatoes, then put some cheese on top (bocconcini if I am being traditional or creamy feta is excellent), then add a basil leaf, some pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil. You can even decorate the plate with some marigold flowers that are also edible.
Let us know your experiences.
The Old Dog
Many thanks to those that found it in their heart to spare a dollar for those that don’t have safe clean water. If you would like to know more please go to http://68anda6pack.com/safe-clean-water/