One healthy zucchini plant can provide dozens of flavorful squash throughout the season, but how do you know when they're ready? How do you pick them? Here are some tips for handling your zucchini harvest.
When you harvest your zucchini depends on two main factors: what type of zucchini are you growing, and how do you intend to use the zucchini. Some types of zucchini take longer to mature. Check your seed packaging when you plant. This will give you a rough estimate of how many days from planting until you have your first ready-to-pick zucchini.
If you plan to showcase your zucchini’s tender texture and bright flavor, as in a stir-fry or salad, harvest them while they’re still small—typically six to eight inches (15-20 cm) long. For stuffed zucchini, it’s all right to let your squash get a bit bigger before harvesting since you’ll remove the seedy center.
How to Harvest
Picking your zucchini is quite simple. Before heading out to the garden (or checking on your container plants), assemble your equipment.
Tools you’ll need for harvesting:
The gloves are optional, but they make the experience more enjoyable since zucchini stems are rough and spiny. You’ll need to search carefully through all the leaves to make sure you catch all the squash that are big enough to harvest—left to their own devices even for an extra day or two, they can quickly become overlarge.
To harvest zucchini, hold the squash in one hand and your knife in the other and slice cleanly through the zucchini’s stem. It’s that easy! You’ll need to harvest frequently, but the more you pick, the more your plant will produce. Most varieties will continue to produce until diseases or cold temperatures create too much stress.
A Bonus Harvest
Got a bumper crop of squash? If you’re getting tired of zucchini with every meal, try harvesting zucchini blossoms for a change of pace. They’re delicious in salads and stir-fry and can even be stuffed and deep fried!
If you don’t want to put a huge dent in your squash production, stick to harvesting male blossoms since female flowers are the ones that will eventually produce fruit. The male blossoms are found on long narrow stems, while female blooms are typically closer to the vine and have a thickened base resembling a miniature zucchini.
Cut the blooms with scissors or shears just after they open in the early morning, opting for fresh, full blooms. Add to favorite recipe and enjoy!