Zucchinis remind me of summertime. As a child, I remember picking zucchinis with my mother in our large garden, along with harvesting huge pots of green beans. Now, as an adult, I take my kids outside to harvest zucchinis. Zucchini plants tend to grow rapidly, which always made me wonder when to harvest zucchini.
Everyone has a different answer. My plants allowed their zucchinis to reach massive sizes. As a kid, I remember using them as bats. My husband’s parents prefer to pick their zucchinis when they are smaller. Everyone has a different preference. Do you?
Zucchini is different than other plants in your garden. Once established and the flowers start to blossom, the fruits grow rather quickly. It isn’t strange for a zucchini to grow a foot in only a few days. Blossoms appear quickly!
Watch For Blossoms
Your zucchini plant has male and female flowers that will appear on your plant. The female flowers will become zucchinis after pollination. Your first step when determining the time to harvest zucchini is to wait for these flowers. Male zucchini flowers have a thin, long stem with a single stamen inside of the blossom. Female flowers have a bulbous at the end of the flower, which is called the ovary. It is where the zucchini will form. Inside of the flower, you will find multiple stigmas.
Average Maturity Time
Each zucchini variety matures at a different rate. It is important that you keep track of what the seed package says, giving you an idea when the plant will start to create harvestable fruit. Here are some of the most common choices and their maturity time.
- Ambassador – 50 days to harvest
- Costata Romanesco – 52 days
- Eight Ball – 40 days. Great choice for shorter growing seasons!
- French White – 50 days
- Gold Rush – 45 days
- Spacemiser – 45 days
- Seneca – 42 days
When To Pick Zucchini
It is typically recommended that you harvest zucchini when they are six to 12 inches long. Depending on your variety, some can reach even longer lengths. The color should be dark green, but that also depends on the variety of zucchini. A few years ago, I grew a lovely white zucchini variety. There are yellow ones available.
Many people, especially those who sell at farmer’s market, prefer to harvest when the fruit is only six inches long. At this stage, the skin is very tender, with small seeds. Of course, if you want to stuff the zucchini like a boat, you will need to wait until it is larger.
The zucchini should also feel firm to the touch. If it feels mushy or soft, you waited too long to harvest. Because the leaves are so broad, it is easy to miss zucchinis hidden underneath. Make sure you lift all of the leaves in your quest for harvesting. I once harvested a zucchini that was two feet long because it was so deeply hidden. However, be careful as you move the leaves. The stalks of large plants can be delicate and will break if you bend them too far.
How Often Should You Harvest Zucchini
The more often you harvest zucchini, the more the plant will produce. While you might want to keep them longer, it makes the seeds larger and harder to eat. If I happen to miss a zucchini on the plant, I grate it and turn it into loaves of zucchini bread. The larger seeds are hidden well in bread.
On the other hand, if you are drowning in zucchinis, it is okay to leave a few on the plant. It will cause the entire plant to slow production down.
How To Harvest Zucchini
Harvesting zucchini is very easy! Once you find the perfect zucchini, it is time to pick it! Grab the zucchini by the end, where the blossom was original. Typically, the end of the zucchini is the fattest part of the fruit, so it is easiest to grab.
Whatever you do, you don’t want to yank on the zucchini. Doing so will break part of the plant, and you don’t want that! Instead, gently twist on the fruit until it releases from the plant. Ideally, you will get some of the stems. If you don’t, that doesn’t mean anything bad will happen. The top will turn yellow quicker though.
If you cannot harvest the zucchini by twisting, the stem should be cut. The most important thing to remember is not to damage the plant and root system by yanking!
Harvesting Zucchini Flowers
Many people love to harvest the zucchini flowers as well. They are delicious when battered and fried! If you’ve yet to try it, you are missing out.
Harvest zucchini flowers right before they would fall off of the plant naturally. You want to make sure you don’t harvest too many of each sex. Most people tend just to take the male flowers, leaving one on a plant. That ensures pollination for all of the female flowers still happens.
Storing Fresh Zucchini
When the plant is producing heavily, you might find yourself with more zucchini than you can use. After you give some to all of your family and friends, you need to know how to store fresh zucchini!
- Store the zucchini unwashed in an open, plastic bag for a week.
- Freeze it for long term storage. Freezing is best done sliced or grated. You need to peel, grate and allow it to drain in a colander. Then, squeeze out all of the excesses. Finally, store the grated zucchini in sealed freezer bags and lay them flat for easy storage.
- The FDA does not recommend canning zucchini due to the higher risk of bacterial contamination.
When to harvest zucchini depends on the size of the fruit and how you intend to use it. If your dinner plans include stuffed zucchini, let the fruit grow larger. If you intend to use the zucchini in a stir-fry, you would be better served by harvesting a smaller zucchini. Just make sure to check to ensure the color is appropriate and firm to the touch. A mushy zucchini is not appealing!