When to pick zucchini?

A few years ago, a co-worker brought in a zucchini from his garden that was so large, it practically had its own gravitational pull. His garden was being particularly prolific with squash that summer, and this particular zucchini had escaped harvest until it was too big to eat. If he had cut it open, the flesh inside would have been stringy, fibrous and inedible.

So he put a paper face on the zucchini and proudly set it on his desk like a mascot representing his garden run amok. He even dubbed the squash “Mr. Zucchini,” and was saddened when a stealth co-worker made the squash mysteriously vanish after fruit flies started swarming around it.

Of course, zucchini should never get that large, and home gardeners know that it can be a challenge to keep up with the harvest. But when they are picked young, they are mild-tasting and even slightly sweet (there’s a reason for this: technically, zucchini is a fruit), and will have tender flesh and thinner skins.

How to pick:

If you don’t have a garden plot or co-workers bringing in their excess zucchini into your office, you can pick up beautiful ones at farmers market. Look for squash that’s small just 6- to 8-inches in length and still relatively thin. The zucchini should feel heavy for its size. The skin should be dark green and smooth and free of blemishes. If the skin looks slightly shriveled, it probably hasn’t been freshly picked.

How to store:

Store zucchini unwashed in a perforated or loosely closed plastic bag for up to one week. Don’t wash or cut up the zucchini until ready to use. To freeze zucchini for later use, wash and cut into 1-inch chunks before freezing in a zipper-topped freezer bag.

How to use:

Zucchini is versatile, but one of the most-common ways of using it is to make zucchini bread. Ah, but which zucchini bread recipe? We’ve been obsessing over

from Portland’s

since we first shared it earlier this year. For a savory zucchini bread, it’s hard to go wrong with

from cooking instructor

But there are many ways of using zucchini beyond bread. And if you get creative, you can find all sort of new uses. The Associated Press’ J.M. Hirsch came up with these 10 fresh ways to use zucchini:

  1. Pasta:
  2. Dip:
  3. Salsa:
  4. Fries:
  5. Boats:
  6. Frittata:
  7. Grain salad:
  8. Tart:
  9. Chips:
  10. Casserole:

— The Associated Press contributed to this story

Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Zucchini is a member of the squash family and can be a delicious addition to almost any summer dish. If you have ever needed to select zucchini at a grocery store or produce stand, you should know how to determine if the zucchini is ripe. Whether you are an expert in the kitchen or just experimenting with new vegetables, learn what you should look for to know when a zucchini is ripe.

Look for a uniform green color encompassing the entire zucchini.

Look for zucchini that are 6 to 8 inches in length.

Select zucchini that is fairly firm and not too soft. It should feel slightly more flexible than a cucumber, but not by much. Avoid soft zucchinis because the softness is a sign they will be inedible very soon. Pick softer ones if you are planning to make zucchini bread, however.

Tip

Select zucchinis that have no bruising or marring. Like the more traditional squashes, zucchini will go bad very quickly once the skin has been broken.

Taste test several sizes of zucchini to see which you like best. Some people like smaller zucchini, while others like larger ones. If you are picking them from your garden, try a smaller one and a larger one and see which you like best. If you are selecting one at the grocery store, pick the largest ones you can find.

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Author: Alice Henneman, MS, RDN, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County

Got Zucchini?

Whether purchasing or picking zucchini — choose firm, slender zucchini with a bright green color and free of wrinkled skin and soft spots. For best quality, harvest zucchini when it is young and tender, about 6 to 8 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter.

As zucchini gets longer and bigger around, it becomes tougher and develops more seeds. These larger zucchini can be used to make zucchini bread; scoop out seeds and pulp with the tip of a spoon.

Store unwashed zucchini in perforated plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator; wash zucchini just before preparation. “You can either purchase perforated plastic bags or make small holes with a sharp object in unperforated plastic bags (about 20 holes per medium-size bag),” according to the University of Minnesota Extension.

For best quality, use zucchini within about three to four days. Wash the squash just before preparation. Zucchini makes a quick addition to meals as it doesn’t have to be peeled!

Before you try to give your zucchini away, here are some suggestions plus four recipes:

Quick Links:

  • Quick Tricks with Zucchini
  • Freezing Zucchini
  • Recipes
    • Skillet Zucchini with Chopped Tomatoes
    • Tuna Pasta Salad
    • Lemon Rosemary Zucchini
    • Beef & Parmesan Pasta

Quick Tricks with Zucchini

The Produce for Better Health Foundation suggests:

  • Slice, marinate (try balsamic vinegar) and grill a variety of vegetables including zucchini, asparagus, green onions, eggplant, and mushrooms. They’re delicious!
  • Cut up veggies like carrots, zucchini and potatoes. Add them to your favorite meatloaf or soup recipes.
  • Take your favorite lasagna recipe and try adding different combinations of your favorite vegetables between the layers: mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, onions, or eggplant. Be creative.

Additional tips include:

  • Add raw zucchini to lettuce and pasta salads.
  • Cut zucchini into sticks and serve with a dip.
  • Slice zucchini, saute in oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes until tender crisp; toss into heated pasta sauce for a veggie-packed pasta topping.

Freezing Zucchini

To freeze grated zucchini for baking, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends: Choose young tender zucchini. Wash and grate. Steam blanch (directions below) in small quantities 1 to 2 minutes until translucent. Pack in measured amounts into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cool by placing the containers in cold water. Seal and freeze. If watery when thawed, discard the liquid before using the zucchini.

To steam blanch: Use a pot with a tight lid and a basket that holds the food at least three inches above the bottom of the pot. Put an inch or two of water in the pot and bring the water to a boil. Put the vegetables in the basket in a single layer so that steam reaches all parts quickly. Cover the pot and keep heat high. Start counting steaming time as soon as the lid is on.

Recipes

Skillet Zucchini with Chopped Tomatoes

Recipe Summary:

  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes
  • Number of Servings: 4
  • Cups of Fruits and Vegetables Per Person: 1.0

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon whipped light butter*
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 small (6-in/15cm) zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a large nonstick skillet, melt margarine over medium heat; add onions and cook, stirring until softened. Add zucchini and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until zucchini is tender-crisp. Season to taste with pepper.

*Alice’s notes: If you don’t have whipped light butter, substitute a teaspoon of vegetable oil.

Tuna Pasta Salad

4 servings, about 1-1/2 cups each

(Source: Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion)

  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Drain tuna.
  3. Wash vegetables. Chop zucchini; slice carrots into thin slices; dice onions.
  4. Mix macaroni, tuna, and vegetables together in mixing bowl. Stir in salad dressing.
  5. Chill until ready to serve.

Alice’s Notes: Drain and rinse the pasta under cold, running water until cool. To allow flavors to blend, chill the salad for about a half hour to an hour before serving.

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini

Makes 4 servings

(Source: American Institute for Cancer Research)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini (2 medium)
  • 1-3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

In medium non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add yellow pepper and rosemary and saute 2 minutes. Add zucchini and salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to saute for another 4 to 5 minutes or until zucchini is just tender. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Nutritional Information: Per serving: 46 calories, 3 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 4 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 6 mg sodium.

Beef & Parmesan Pasta

Makes 4 servings

(Source: Kaiti Roeder, RD, Nebraska Beef Council and Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association – Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner. For more recipes made with zucchini, enter the word “zucchini” in the Nebr. Beef Council’s recipe search feature and at www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com).
Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Brown ground beef in large nonstick skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is not pink, breaking up into 3/4-inch crumbles. Remove from skillet with slotted spoon; set aside. Pour off drippings.
  2. Combine broth, tomatoes and pasta in same skillet, pushing pasta into liquid; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in zucchini; continue cooking 5 minutes or until pasta is tender.
  3. Return beef to skillet. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese; heat through. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese before serving.

Zucchini (a type of summer squash) is a great vegetable that boasts a number of health benefits and can be cooked in a variety of ways.

Zucchini’s high water content (95 percent) makes it a very low calorie vegetables (only 17 calories per 100 g/one small zucchini) It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, is packed with Vitamin C, A, folate, magnesium, protein and fiber. In addition, zucchini contains more than three times the potassium of the average potassium supplement, which helps in muscle growth and maintaining a healthy nervous system.

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Overall, nutrients found in zucchini promote bone health, heart health, healthy weight and aid in cancer prevention.

The best way to eat zucchini is to consume is raw. However, salads and raw dishes are not the only way to enjoy this healthy summer squash. You can add zucchini to your muffins and cakes, soups, tacos and other entrees. The possibilities are literally endless!

Here are our 10 favorite recipes made with Zucchini:

1. Raw Zucchini Pasta with Creamy Avocado-Cucumber Sauce

Raw pasta dishes will leave you feeling so refreshed and at your best; they are perfect for the warm summer months.

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Feel free to omit the cucumber in this recipe and add an extra avocado if you like for variations (you may like to add a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil if you do). You can even add some arugula to the puree instead of using basil. Lots of ways to change it up and keep it fresh!

2. Raw Zucchini Wraps

These raw zucchini wraps are not only super healthy but they’re refreshing, filling, easy and fun to make! And so colorful too. All these vibrant colors are good for you…full of antioxidents, nutrients, fiber and yes, even protein! Fresh and raw is a beautiful way to eat. At least half of our daily food consumption should be raw foods for optimal health, not always easy, but hopefully this will be a fun way to add some rawness to your life. Your mind, body and soul will thank you!

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3. Spicy Kale Pesto with Zucchini Noodles

The pesto pairs great with the zucchini noodles, especially with a nice dusting of almond parmesan.

4. Flourless Tofu-Zucchini Muffins

These muffins are light but nevertheless filling. Perfect for brunch, light dinner or buffet.

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5. Spicy Zucchini and Tomato Tacos

You will love the mix of this spicy zucchini with the cooling tomatoes and avocado. If you want a heartier meal, these are perfect with some marinated tempeh. And if you don’t have tortillas for wrapping, sauteed spicy zucchini and fresh tomato also make the perfect stand-alone salad.

6. Individual Chocolate Espresso Cake…with Zucchini!

What happens when Zucchini is mixed with chocolate and turned into a cake? The result: a moist, rich chocolate espresso cake that you will blow your mind!

7. Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Zucchini is the perfect addition to these chocolate chip muffins. They straddle the line between savory and sweet – you could certainly choose these for dessert, but they’d also work well slathered with nut butters or a buttery spread.

8. Zucchini Pasta with Chunky Tomato Sauce

This zucchini has a classic-style sauce, but the addition of Brazil nuts or walnuts gives it a non-traditional crunch.

9. Zucchini Blueberry Muffins

If you are looking for a recipe that is a great mix between summer and fall, this is it! You can use the last of your soft-skinned zucchini and sweet blueberries, but also feel comforted by scent of cinnamon and filling whole wheat. These are muffins that even the most stubborn omnivore will love, believe me, I tested them! Feed them to your children to sneak in more vegetables and fruit under a tasty breakfast guise.

10. Minty Zucchini n’ Strawberry Chilled Soup

Just a pinch of fresh mint from the garden is all you need to spruce up this fresh summer soup. A bit of zucchini and some fresh strawberries, a lil’ balsamic vinegar, a few Jersey fresh tomatoes, some freshly squeezed orange juice, and you’re all set! A sweet n’ simple, gluten-free n’ vegan chilled soup that will cool you off even on the hottest July day. So, as your frazzled in your kitchen, sweating away … wondering what to make for next BBQ? Take a break, make this soup and relax. It will make you feel so much better. Then, you can stress and start planning your BBQ for the weekend. Sips up. Here’s to a refreshing and cooling way to spend your day.

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Know When To Pick Zucchini

How Long Till Harvest

Prepare to start harvesting zucchini an early as 40 days after sowing the seed. Once the fruit starts to grow at the base of the flower, it can be ready to pick in eight days or less. Here are some zucchini varieties and their days to harvest:

  • Eight Ball (40 days)
  • Seneca (42 days)
  • Gold Rush (45 days)
  • Zucchini Gray (49 days)
  • Costata Romanesco (52 days)

Best Picking Size

Most zucchini varieties are cylindrically shaped. These can be picked at any size, but the tastiest ones are 6-7 inches long and 1.5-2 inches in diameter. Some varieties remain tasty at larger sizes. Some growers pick zucchini when 2-4 inches long. These are sold to restaurants for specialty dishes. Markets also sell them to consumers.

The round or oval zucchini should be picked when it reaches a 2-3 inch diameter. In as little as 40 days, this one-serving squash is ready for the table.

Harvest Time Color and Texture

The signal that it’s picking time is a darkened zucchini. The green, yellow, and white varieties all darken when it’s harvest time. The zucchini should feel firm, not mushy when it is ready for picking. Anything that is mushy or moldy should be discarded.

How Often Should Zucchini Be Picked

At the beginning of the zucchini season, a few squashes slowly appear. Suddenly the production accelerates. The overwhelming pace of fruit production may tempt the gardener to allow the zucchini to stay on the plant longer. Big mistake! Pick every day or two to keep fruit production going. Give away the zucchini if storage space is limited.

Zucchini left on the plant too long will develop tough outer skin, large seeds, and sometimes a bitter taste. Avoid this by frequent picking. Check bush thoroughly for the green zucchini that often hides from view underneath large leaves.

How to Pick Zucchini

The sweetest, juiciest, and crispiest zucchini are picked before 9 a.m. but after the dew has dried up. An extra bonus is a longer shelf life. Zucchini should be cut off the stem with a sharp knife or shears. Pulling or twisting the squash may damage the plant.

Zucchini is an easy plant to grow that will delight your taste buds from summer to fall.

Zucchini important facts

Name – Cucurbita pepo
Family – Cucurbitaceae or gourd family
Type – vegetable

Height – 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – rather light but especially well drained

Harvest – 2 months after sowing

  • Health: health benefits of zucchini

Sowing and planting zucchini

Zucchini is a fruit / vegetable that grows in all our climate zones and only requires two things: sun and water.

Growing zucchini can be started either from seeds from spring to summer, either from young plants purchased in nurseries at the beginning of spring.

Zucchini is one of the easiest seeds to sow and is perfect for beginner gardeners.

Here is an explanatory video on how to grow zucchini

Sowing zucchini indoors

Sowing indoors starts in March or April.

  • Sow seeds in seed holes using small nursery pots, with 2 to 3 seeds per pot.
  • Lightly cover with soil mix and sprinkle water to keep the substrate a bit moist.
  • Once the sprouts have raised, transplant the more vigorous ones directly in the ground in either April or May, depending on the climate zone.
  • Provide for about 1 square yard (1 square meter) per plant, because zucchini needs space to grow.

Sowing seeds directly in the ground

Direct sowing in the ground can start end of April to beginning of May, once all risk of freezing is past.

To sow zucchini directly in the ground, be sure to wait for the last day that freezing can occur for your region before sowing.

  • Direct sowing is the method to use for sowing from April until the end of summer.
    Use the seed hole sowing technique with a depth of around 1 inch (2 or 3 cm) and a distance of 24 to 32 inches (60 to 80 cm) between seed holes.
  • When the plants reach a height of 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm), thin them so that they may develop normally.
  • If you choose to sow in pots, transplant them to the bed 4 to 6 weeks later.
    This has an added benefit of protecting the young plants from slugs until they are well developed.

A special tip: Zucchini must cross-pollinate between male and female flowers to bear fruits. It helps to have several plants for fruits to develop well and to increase the harvest. Each plant usually bears both male and female flowers.

Planting zucchini

If your time is short and you forget to sow in the spring, it is possible to plant zucchini from seedlings purchased in nursery pots at the end of spring or the beginning of summer.

  • Don’t transplant them to the ground too early, because lack of sun or excess moisture could kill them.
  • Keep sufficient spacing for the zucchini to develop well (around 1 square meter per plant).
  • Water regularly, especially at the beginning, to speed root development up.

Caring for and growing zucchini

If growing zucchini is very easy, there are nonetheless a few things to watch out for to ensure an abundant harvest.

Caring for zucchinis from planting to harvest means following several practices that will help you produce beautiful fruits.

These practices will help develop the taste of your zucchinis as well as keep diseases at bay.

  • Remove weeds as they appear.
  • In case of hot temperatures, water without wetting the leaves, or powdery mildew will appear on the zucchini leaves.
  • Remove damaged leaves immediately, especially if they show the symptoms of the disease.

Harvesting zucchini

Zucchini fruit grows fast, and you must monitor its growth: if the fruit gets too big, it won’t taste as good as normal-sized fruits.

Soft flesh guarantees a savory taste and easy digestibility.

The larger the fruit, the larger and more numerous the seeds inside become.

Harvesting takes place around 2 months after sowing.

  • Choose first those zucchini that are just starting to ripen, because seeds are present in those that are already ripe. The seeds are a bit unpleasant when eating the fruit.
  • It is also preferable to harvest them before they get 8 inches (20 cm) long for the long varieties, and 4 inches (10 cm) across for the round varieties.
    If they are harvested any larger, they lose their taste.

Protecting zucchini against powdery mildew

This thin white velvety layer that covers zucchini leaves like white powder and poisons the plant is called powdery mildew.

This disease is a fungus that sucks the sap from the plant, draining the plant and weakening it sometimes to the point of death.

Treating the plant adequately in a timely manner is needed to get rid of powdery mildew, since it can even spread to most of the gourd family plants that you might have in your vegetable garden, like squash and pumpkin, cucumber or melon.

  • Use pruning shears that have been disinfected with 90 proof alcohol.
  • Cut and destroy sick leaves immediately (never in the compost).
  • Wipe your pruning shears with alcohol after every single cut.
  • Spray a sulfur-based preparation that can be found in local stores.
  • It is also possible to use baking soda, mixed to a ratio of 0.2 oz to a quart (5 grams per liter) + one teaspoon of Marseille soap.
  • Finally, if the powdery mildew keep attacking, or if the plants are decimated by the invasion, only a myclobutanil-based treatment can eradicate it. Take care to follow recommended dosages.

All there is to know about zucchini

Originally domesticated in Central America, zucchini is actually a young squash harvested before having matured completely.

It also offers during the summer beautiful edible yellow flowers.

Considered a vine, this plant’s long or round fruits have a high water (95%), calcium, magnesium and potassium content.

They also have high mineral, vitamin, fiber and trace elements.

  • Read also: health benefits and therapeutic properties of zucchini

The many different varieties produce fruits of many different colors, sizes, and tastes that can bring touches of green, white or yellow in shapes both round and long to your vegetable patch.

Among the most interesting zucchini varieties, make sure to try the ‘Ambassador’, ‘Black beauty’, ‘Diamond’, ‘Gold rush’, ‘Grey Zucchini’, ‘Splendor’, or ‘Ronde de Nice’ with its delicious round fruits.

Smart tip about zucchini

Avoid wetting the leaves when watering, it’s the best way to avoid powdery mildew.

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Zucchini in a basket by Carl F. Bagge ★ under © CC BY 2.0
Sprouting zucchini by Pasquale Trubia ★ under license
Flowering zucchini by AllNikArt under license
Zucchini fruits on plant by Antonio José Céspedes López ★ under license
Zucchini ready for cooking by Angele Jeanne ☆ under Pexels license
On MeWe : Zucchini cut on lawn by Cornelia Gerhardt under license

Zucchini Squash Harvesting: When Is Zucchini Ready To Pick

Zucchini is a prolific, rapid growing vegetable that one minute will be a diminutive 3 inches long and practically overnight becomes a foot and half long monster. It’s not always easy to know when to pick fruits and vegetables and zucchini is no exception. So when is zucchini ready to pick? Read on to find out all the dirt on how and when to harvest zucchini.

Zucchini Squash Harvesting

Zucchini is a summer squash, a member of the Cucurbita family amongst which melons, pumpkins, cucumbers and gourds also reside. Zucchini dates back to 5,500 B.C. in the northern parts of South America. It was then “discovered” by European explorers and introduced into their countries of origin.

Zucchini grows on a bushy, non-vining plant with large, dark green leaves peppered with silvery-grey streaks. These large leaves provide shade to the fruit but also tend to play “hide n’ seek” with it. Hence, one minute you have tiny zucchini and seemingly in the next, gargantuan fruit. That’s why vigilant zucchini plant picking is so important. The mammoth fruit tends to become stringy on the inside with a tough exterior. Generally, when picking zucchini plants, you are looking for smaller, tender fruits that are sweet and mild.

The plants produce both male and female flowers, making it a perfect squash to grow for those with limited space, as the plant does not need another to set fruit. Trust me, one healthy plant will produce more than enough fruit for most small families. In fact, harvesting and storing zucchini at the proper time and conditions will undoubtedly provide ample fruit for not only your family but your friends and extended family as well! So when is zucchini ready to pick?

How and When to Harvest Zucchini

Ideally, zucchini squash harvesting will commence when you have fruit that is 6-8 inches long. Some cultivars have fruit that is still edible at up to a foot long. That said, if you leave the fruit on too long, the seeds and rind harden, making it unpalatable.

If you pick often, fruit production is hastened, which may or may not be a good thing. If you find that you and yours are drowning in more zucchini than can be reasonably used, leave a few fruit on the plant to slow down production.

Fruit should also be dark green (or yellow or white depending upon the variety) and firm. If the fruit feels mushy, it’s probably rotting and should be discarded.

Harvesting and Storing Zucchini

Don’t just pull the fruit from the plant when zucchini squash harvesting. You will likely damage the plant. Cut the fruit from the plant at the stem.

With its broad leaves, zucchini fruit can be difficult to spot, hence, giants are often found hiding where you had never noticed fruit before. Check under the leaves for hidden fruit. Be careful when you are hunting, lest you damage the fragile leaves and stems.

Now that you have harvested the fruit, how do you store it? Store unwashed zucchini in a perforated or open plastic bag for up to a week or freeze the fruit for use later down the road. There are a couple of ways to do this. I shred unpeeled zucchini, drain it in a colander and then squeeze it gently to remove excess moisture.

Place it in sealed quart size freezer bags and freeze them flat so they can be stacked in the freezer. I shred because the end result will likely be zucchini bread or fried zucchini cakes. You can also wash the fruit, dry it, and cut it into one inch cubes and then freeze it in freezer bags. Either way, frozen zucchini lasts up to 3 months.

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