Annals of Botany

History of the zucchini squash

Summer squash, the young fruits of Cucurbita pepo, are a common, high-value fruit vegetable. Of the summer squash cultivar-groups, the zucchini is today the most cosmopolitan but it is also the newest, having been traced to Milan, 1901. Lust and Paris collected and searched books on agriculture and cookery dating from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries to follow the horticultural development and culinary use of young Cucurbita fruits in Italy.

Curcubita pepo
Young fruits of Cucurbita pepo, one from each edible-fruited cultivar-group. Left to right, top row, subsp. texana: Acorn, Straightneck, Crookneck, Scallop. Left to right, bottom row, subsp. pepo: Pumpkin, Vegetable Marrow, Cocozelle, Zucchini. Image: Lust and Paris.

By 1600, round and elongate young fruits of C. pepo were addressed as separate cookery items in Italian kitchens. These elongate squash probably refer to the cocozelles of southern and central Italy. The agricultural books by Cantoni (1855) and Tamaro (1892) suggest that the other elongate Italian squash, the zucchini, originated in northern Italy during the mid-nineteenth century.


  1. So the courgette/zucchini has gone from brand new to being secretly dumped on neighbour’s doorsteps in just over a century? Impressive 😉

Comments are closed.