There’s a certain time of the year when the produce haul in your market is loaded with zucchini. And it’s affordable, so you definitely want to grab a few of those. Unfortunately, summer squash such as zucchini goes bad fairly quickly. Because of that, it’s important to know how long does it last and how to store it properly, so you can enjoy it for the longest time possible.
Photo by Alice Henneman on Flickr.
How to store zucchini?
Most sources suggest storing fresh zucchini in the fridge. That’s the best option, especially if you have some space available in the fridge. If that’s not the case, the second-best option is to store it in the pantry. It will start to degrade faster than when stored in the fridge, but overall the pantry or basement isn’t that bad. Storing zucchini on the countertop in room temperature should be avoided unless you plan to use it within a day or two. If that’s the case, nothing bad should happen to it by the time it finds its way to one of your dishes.
If you’ve already chopped or sliced zucchini, fridge is the only place to store it. In the pantry or in room temperature it will degrade within a day and likely go bad shortly thereafter.
How long does zucchini last?
Let’s start with the “worst” storage method, that is the countertop in room temperature. If you store zucchini this way, use it within one to two day after buying. After 3 or 4 days it won’t be spoiled, but its quality will be worse. Mushy and watery produce is not something you want, especially in a salad, and that’s what’s going to happen to zucchini stored in room temperature for a few days.
Storing zucchini in the pantry, where it’s slightly colder and quite dark gives it another few days of remaining at best, or at least good, quality. 3 to 5 days of good quality is what you can expect. A day or two more of slightly mushy, but not completely useless zucchini. If you see the produce is starting to get watery, throw it into a soup instead of a salad.
If you store fresh zucchini in the fridge, it should remain good for at least 5 to 7 days, up to 2 weeks even. To make sure it lasts as long as possible, wrap it (unwashed) in a paper or plastic bag. Make sure there’s some air circulation, though. That means it shouldn’t be wrapped tightly.
If the zucchini is already sliced or chopped, it will keep in the fridge for two to three days.
Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash.
How to tell if zucchini is bad?
In most cases before spoiling zucchini will start to get soft. While soft and somewhat mushy zucchini isn’t spoiled or bad, it can ruin some dishes, especially salads. In some recipes, like soups, texture change isn’t a big deal, so feel free to use slightly watery zucchini in those. With time, there comes a point when the change of texture is so big the produce is basically useless. If you’re about to slice a somewhat soft zucchini that was stored for too long, prepare for water coming from the inside after cutting through the skin. And I don’t mean a few drops of water, but half a cup or even more, depending on the size of the squash. Zucchini is mostly water, so if it loses its texture, it’s useless.
If zucchini didn’t get soft and looks fine of the outside, peel it. If the flesh looks, smells and tastes alright, it’s fine to eat. If there are any small black marks, feel free to cut them out and still use the produce. Make sure you cut more than only those spots. If the black parts are fairly large, just throw the zucchini out.
Can you freeze zucchini?
If you have more zucchini than you can use within the next week or two, freezing is an option. Here’s how to freeze zucchini:
- Wash and slice the veggies into 1/2 inch (~1.2 cm) rounds.
- Blanch the cut zucchini. First, bring a pot of water to a boil. Then plunge the zucchini into the water for 2-3 minutes (the thicker the slices, the longer they should be boiled). Once done, chill the veggies quickly in ice water (cold water or water with ice cubes). Last step is draining the slices in a colander and patting them dry with paper towels.
- Chuck the veggies into freezer bags or containers.
- Date and label the packages and transfer into the freezer.
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Zucchini is a versatile member of the squash family that can be eaten raw with vegetable dip, grated and put into cakes, breads and muffins, or cut them in half and used as a serving vessel for a multitude of main dishes. If you simply cut up the zucchini into cubes, it makes an excellent addition to a shish kabob or side dish when roasted in the oven.
Wash the zucchini thoroughly under cold or lukewarm water. Cut 1/4 inch off each end. Peeling the zucchini is optional; the skin is edible and adds color to your dish, but does add a slightly bitter taste to the zucchini. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin if desired.
Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Removing the seeds is another option. It is a matter of personal preference.
Cut each half lengthwise with the cuts being approximately 1 inch apart. Then cut the slices horizontally to make 1-inch cubes. Serve the zucchini with dip or cook it by grilling or roasting.
Parboil the squash for five minutes. It facilitates the squash cooking evenly on the grill.
Cube the zucchini and thread it on the skewers. Alternate with eggplant, tomato and summer squash leaving 1/4 inch between pieces for even cooking.
Grill over medium heat for 10 minutes. The vegetables will be soft, but still firm, when done.
Toss cubed zucchini with just enough olive oil to lightly coat the pieces. The amount of oil will vary with the amount of zucchini; start with 1 tbsp. and add more if necessary.
Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and place in a 400-degrees Fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes or until zucchini is lightly browned.
Serve as a side dish. The roasted pieces can also be added to a fresh salad.
Can You Eat Raw Zucchini?
In most cases, raw zucchini is safe to eat with little to no side effects.
However, you may occasionally encounter an extremely bitter one. This bitterness comes from cucurbitacins, a class of compounds found in members of the Cucurbitaceae family, such as squash, zucchini, and gourds (13, 14).
Intake of foods high in cucurbitacins has been linked to poisoning and death in sheep and cattle. In humans, they have been linked to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, and even death (14, 15).
However, these effects were mostly associated with eating members of the Cucurbitaceae family that contain high amounts of cucurbitacins, such as certain gourds — not commercially grown varieties (16).
While cucurbitacin poisoning is dangerous, it’s rare from store-bought zucchinis, as suppliers tend to selectively breed crops that are low in cucurbitacins. Instead, be careful when eating wild zucchini, as they’re more likely to be high in these compounds (15, 17).
That said, if you bite into zucchini and it tastes extremely unpleasant and bitter, it’s best to spit it out and dispose of the entire fruit to avoid the risk of cucurbitacin toxicity.
Another potential side effect of eating raw zucchini is bloating. This is caused by nutrients like cellulose, a structural component of plant cell walls, and soluble fiber, which is fermented by your healthy gut bacteria and produces gas as a side effect (4).
Lastly, as with any raw fruit, there’s a potential risk of contamination from bacteria or parasites (18).
To minimize the risk of food poisoning, be sure to wash the fruit thoroughly with cold water while scrubbing the skin with a soft brush. Store cut zucchini in the fridge (19, 20).
Scrubbing the zucchini with a soft brush before eating it will help reduce bacteria on the skin and can also reduce pesticide residue found on fresh produce (21).
Summary Raw zucchini is generally safe to eat, but in some cases, it may be extremely bitter. This indicates that it’s high in cucurbitacins, which are compounds that can be toxic. However, cucurbitacin poisoning is very unlikely from commercial varieties.