Harvesting zucchini (Cucurbita Pepo) from your own garden is both healthy and rewarding. High in nutrients, it contains vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, and manganese. They grow quickly and typically have large yields, so a zucchini plant is a gift that keeps on giving!
While you may be excited about your bounty, it is important to consider a few things before harvesting your zucchini.
Set yourself up for success and get ready to harvest! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Pruning scissors or shears
- Sturdy basket/container
- Measuring Tape
- Garden gloves
When To Harvest
Before you harvest your zucchini, there are a few things to consider to ensure you get the best-tasting fruit.
First, take note of the zucchini rind. While you should harvest winter squash when its skin is hard, the rind of the summer squash should be soft. To test for this, use your fingernail to dent the rind. If it dents, it’s ready.
Secondly, your zucchini will be ready once it is about 6 to 8 inches long and 2 to 4 inches around. Check back frequently to ensure your fruit does not get too large. If the skin is too hard to dent or the fruit too big, that means it’s overripe and will be bitter.
When you harvest zucchini depends on when you plant it. As it’s sensitive to frost due to its tropical origins, it’s vital to only plant seeds after the threat of frost has subsided. Zucchini has an abundant yield and can be harvested twice a year due to its 35 to 55-day growth-to-harvest timeline.
How To Harvest
Now it’s the moment you have been waiting for! All your hard work has paid off, and you see the literal fruits of your labor. You’ve determined that it is indeed time to harvest your zucchini, but how do you go about it?
Start by putting on your garden gloves, as the fruit will be prickly on the stalk and stems. Using a sharp knife or shears, cut between the fruit and the plant’s main stem. Pulling or cutting in the wrong location can damage the overall plant and shorten its lifespan/yield. You need to be very careful when harvesting zucchini, as they are easy to bruise since you pick them while they’re still immature.
As a rapid-growing fruit, you can pick zucchini often. Ensure you pick the fruit when it’s immature and continually harvesting your fruit will allow the plant to keep producing more. If you leave the fruit on too long, it will slow down your plant’s growth.
If you are interested in harvesting the zucchini flowers — they are edible — ensure to gather the male flowers. Keeping the female flower attached will allow the plant to keep producing. The male flowers have a long stem and a stamen at their center; the females have a short stem and a small fruit at their base. Pick the flowers at midday when they are fully opened and should be cut with shears leaving 1 inch of stem.
Zucchini is best eaten within a few days of harvesting. However, there are ways you can prolong the life of your harvest.
To keep in the refrigerator, do not wash them until you’re ready to consume them. The water can promote degradation and reduce the quality of your fruit. Store unwashed in a plastic bag in the crisper of your fridge, and it will keep for one to two weeks.
Freezing your zucchini is the best way to have it last through winter. Wash, slice, and then blanch your zucchini pieces. Blanching will stop the ripening process and helps maintain the flavor and texture of the fruit.
- Zucchini can go by many different names, depending on where you are. In many English-speaking countries, zucchinis are referred to as courgettes, and to make matters more confusing, in some places, they’re called vegetable marrow. Zucchini means “little squash” in Italian because Italians are said to have developed it after summer squash was introduced to the continent post-European colonization of the Americas.
- Although widely referred to as a vegetable, Zucchini is a fruit of the Cucurbitaceae family. It is a summer squash whose varieties grow in the frost-free season.
- The zucchini plant grows in a bush shape, unlike the sprawling vine of winter squashes.
- Three or four plants produce enough fruit to supply a small family.
Now You’re Ready to Squash It!
Fast-growing and plentiful, zucchini is a relatively easy plant to grow, making it a welcome addition to your garden! Ensuring the fruit is between 6 to 8 inches and has a soft rind when you harvest it will provide you with the best quality zucchini.
Now you have the confidence to determine when and how to harvest your zucchini. So, what will you do with it? Check out the layered cinnamon zucchini breakfast bread or sweet buttermilk zucchini lemon bread recipes. Then, leave a comment below with your favorite zucchini recipes!