Prickly zucchini from Calabria

Perhaps someone knowledgeable in horticulture can shed some light on this one. The store owner just down the street had a crate of these unusual vegetables on display and I’m wondering if anyone has seen or knows anything about them. The dimensions measure about 3½” x 4″ and the prickly thorns aren’t as nasty like those on a cactus. The store owner didn’t know of any botanical name, only that it’s called zucchini (like the familiar garden variety) in her native region of Calabria. Her instructions to remove the thorns were similiar to that of scaling a fish: use the blade of a knife to scrape them off then you can remove the outer skin with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. The zucchini can be halved and the inner seed pod discarded.

Back home in Hawaii there’s a squash which looks similiar to this, sans thorns, but for the life of me I can’t remember the name! The cooking method, if I remember well, is to add them chopped into soups, stews, and other local dishes. I did give the Calabrian woman’s cooking tip a try — sliced into wedges (about ¼-inch) and dipped into beaten eggs and breadcrumbs before frying. The flavor is not much different than zucchini but there was a subtle note of sweetness. All it needed was a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

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2 thoughts on “Prickly zucchini from Calabria

  1. Nonna T

    Chayote squash.Chayote squash was grown by the Aztecs who named it chayotli in their Nahuatl language. This is a spiny one. People say that the spiny ones are more flavorful. They do have spineless ones too. In many parts of California, Mexico, and I bet in Hawaii too, they grow as a vigorous vine. To grow a plant , you just stick one end of the squash in well amended soil in the summer and water it. Provide it with lots of support, ie., a fence, rails, teepee, etc.

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