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Warning, poisoning hazard: when zucchinis taste remarkably bitter


Zucchini: watch out for bitter taste!

A light summer vegetable with few calories is zucchini. Many also grow the delicious vegetables in the home garden. But sometimes there is a risk to life if zucchini and squash are grown themselves. In this article we show you to pay attention to.

The Mediterranean vegetables with the mild nut aroma only became established in German kitchens in the 1970s. Zucchini is now so popular that every household consumes an average of one kilogram a year. Since it has no distinctive taste of its own, it can be excellently combined with other vegetables such as aubergine, tomato and paprika. But there were already deaths after consumption! Therefore, consumers should pay particular attention to a “bitter taste”.

"If the fruit tastes unusually bitter, it must not be eaten," warns the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. Depending on the variety and growing conditions, the plant forms bitter substances that can affect health in higher concentrations. The rare cases of symptoms of poisoning in the past years were mostly caused by copied zucchini from our own garden. The substance cucurbitacin is responsible for this.

Cucurbitacin is produced by pumpkin plants such as zucchini, cucumber or melons to protect their fruits. The ability to produce these substances was actually bred out of the useful plants. But does the plant stand e.g. due to long-lasting heat under stress, the substances may be reactivated. The poison can also arise if seeds with backcrosses containing the bitter substances are used. In 2015, there was a death from poisonous zucchini from the garden. At that time, a 79-year-old pensioner from Baden-Württemberg had died.

Zucchini tastes raw, grilled and cooked

Zucchini tastes raw in a salad, cooked, fried and grilled. The fruits are also ideal for light cuisine, because due to the high water content they contain hardly any fat and just 20 kilocalories per 100 g. But they are rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamins A and C. A special delicacy are the yellow zucchini flowers, which are good for frying and filling.

The zucchini originally comes from Central America and only came to Europe with immigrants in the 17th century. The name is derived from the Italian word for pumpkin "zucca". Because the zucchini belongs to the pumpkin family and is botanically a berry. It does not have to be green and cucumber-shaped. The zucchini is available in many variations - in black, yellow and light green, also in the shape of a roller, mackerel and with white spots. Zucchini can be as huge as a pumpkin. With increasing size, however, the aroma is lost. Therefore, they are harvested semi-ripe with a length of 10 to 40 cm when the peel is still tender and soft.

When shopping, small fruits with a smooth skin that does not give way under pressure are the best choice. The zucchini is kept in the vegetable compartment of the fridge for up to two weeks. The vegetables do not need to be peeled or pitted before preparation. Simply wash under running water and remove the stem and flower base.

Expert tip: Follow your own taste

Protection against poisoning is provided by a simple taste test before preparing the vegetables. If it tastes bitter, if it is spit out immediately and the affected vegetables are not used, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) informs. However, this requires a working sense of taste. People who are restricted here should ask other people for help. (sb)

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