The bigger, the better? That doesn’t apply to zucchini. Here is why it is better to harvest smaller zucchini and how to do it right.
Zucchini is a delicious summer vegetable that you can easily grow in the garden, raised bed or planter on the balcony and terrace. If you want to harvest zucchini, the plant makes it easy. Because the little sister of the pumpkin bears abundant fruit from June to October. Typically, the elongated fruits are green. But there are also yellow and even white varieties or green striped.
Zucchini bear six to eight weeks after sowing and begin to set fruit in June. You can harvest zucchini from now until the fall before the first frost. The more regularly you harvest, the more productive the plant will be. Once the elongated zucchini are 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 in) long, it’s time to cut the fruit with a sharp knife. Young zucchini have the best flavor and a firm consistency. Older fruit will be spongier and more bland, but will keep longer. Bitter fruits should not be eaten.
When to harvest zucchini?
As soon as the plant begins to set fruit, you can start harvesting. From a length of about 15 centimeters (6 in) and 200 grams (440 lbs), the vegetable is ideal for cooking. Young zucchini still contain many vitamins, are nice and firm and have more flavor than large zucchini. With increasing size, the fruits become spongier and more bland in taste. In the middle, the seeds are already forming clearly. A large zucchini fruit can be useful if you want to fill it. For zucchini boats you hollow out the inside anyway.
However, small zucchini are tastier. The big advantage is that you can still use the skin. This is where the valuable ingredients of the low-calorie vegetable are found. The skin of young fruits is still soft and shiny with a fresh green color. As they ripen, the skin becomes duller. In yellow varieties, the color becomes richer. So, in principle, you harvest the tastiest zucchini unripe.
Examine your zucchini regularly for fruit and harvest the plants continuously. Regular harvesting encourages continued fruiting. You must harvest the last zucchini before the first frost. The plants cannot withstand sub-zero temperatures.
What is the best way to harvest zucchini?
Cut the fruit one to two centimeters (0.4 to 0.8 in) behind the stem base with a sharp knife. In wet, cool years, you may want to carefully twist off the fruit. Cutting it off creates a larger cut, which gives fungal diseases more of a target. However, if you are careless when twisting off, it can easily happen that you tear out a tendril and damage the plant.
What is the meaning of a bitter taste in zucchini?
In rare cases, it may happen that a zucchini tastes bitter. Such fruits should not be eaten. They contain toxic bitter substances called cucurbitacins. In larger quantities, these can cause severe gastrointestinal problems and even food poisoning. Normally, the bitter substances are bred out. Originally, the zucchini protected itself from harmful environmental influences by the cucurbitacins. However, sometimes it happens that the plants relapse. This can happen if you gain your own seeds and the zucchini plant has backcrossed with other squash in the garden, for example. Extreme situations, such as periods of heat with drought stress, can also cause zucchini to become bitter. Do the test and taste a piece of the fruit set. This is the place where the flower sat, not where you cut the fruit.
How much yield one zucchini?
In a week you can often harvest zucchini several times. How much you harvest depends not only on the weather and soil conditions, but also on how large or small you harvest the fruit. On average, it is calculated that one plant of about four kilograms can provide two people with fresh vegetables for an entire summer. You can even cultivate the plants in a tub. For the balcony and terrace, choose a planter of about 30 liters. Since zucchini are heavy feeders, mix the soil with compost.
What can be done to make the zucchini bear more fruit?
If your zucchini in the garden bears little, it is usually due to the weather. The plant loves the heat. In cold, wet summers, insects also have a hard time. Zucchini need to be pollinated by insects, usually bumblebees, wild bees or honeybees. If the pollinators are missing, no fruit can form from the female zucchini flowers. Here’s a trick to help: pollinate the flowers yourself. To do this, take a fully formed male flower and pluck off the yellow petals. If the pollen-bearing anthers are exposed, you can easily dab the pollen onto the stigma of the female flowers.
Female flowers are easily identified by their large ovary. Both male and female flowers open for only one day at a time. Fertilization works best in the morning hours. As temperatures rise, the pollen’s ability to fertilize decreases.
Can you also harvest the flowers of zucchini?
Zucchini flowers are edible and a delicacy. Mostly the male flowers are used for cooking. The female flowers will eventually develop into fruit. The male flowers are much longer stalked than the female zucchini flowers. They taste raw, deep-fried or fried.
How long can you store harvested zucchini?
The older zucchini, the longer they keep. So the shelf life is exactly the opposite of the taste. Freshly harvested zucchini tastes best when eaten the same day. If you still want to store some zucchini, you can easily keep the vegetables for a few days in a shady, airy place or in the pantry. In the refrigerator, however, with its average of seven degrees, it is too cool. Large, ripe zucchini can be stored in the cellar for several months.
What can you do with zucchini in the kitchen?
Zucchini can be grated raw into a salad, baked or fried in a pan. It is usually not necessary to peel the zucchini. Since zucchini has little flavor of its own, people like to combine this summer vegetable with other Mediterranean vegetables, such as tomatoes in pasta sauce. You can also grill the zucchini. Cut into slices, they are then the vegetarian alternative to sausage.
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