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 wife’s owner didn’t know of any botanical name, only that it’s called a zucchini (like the familiar darkgreen ones) in her native homeland of Calabria. Her instructions to remove the sharp spines were similiar to that of scaling a fish: use a sharp knife to get rid of them then you can peel the outer skin. Once that’s done, the zucchini can be halved and the inner seed pod discarded.

Back home, there is a squash fruit which looks similiar to this, only sans thorns – but for the life of me I can’t remember the name! The cooking methods, 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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