In Praise of Zucchini
Zucchini is a type of summer squash and member of the Curcurbita genus, along with other plants important to humans such as pumpkins, some gourds and other squashes. This annual herbaceous plant is easy to grow, reaches maturity quickly and is extremely prolific.
Besides being delicious and useful in all kinds of excellent recipes, zucchini has no fat, contains lots of water and fiber, and provides minerals that include potassium and manganese, as well as significant amounts of vitamins B6, riboflavin, folate, C and K. It’s also a source of disease-fighting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
Zucchini squash, which is technically a fruit and not a vegetable, grows on a lush, non-vining plant with large leaves that have silvery-gray speckles. The leaves grow quite large and provide shade to the fruit. However, if you’ve ever grown zucchini, you know that the flourishing leaves can make it difficult to see and harvest the squash.
Zucchini plants are simple to grow from seeds and have a short growing season. About 45 to 55 days after planting, you’ll begin to see blooms, which are soon replaced with the fruit. When the early zucchinis are about six inches long, you can start harvesting them. Depending on the variety, a ripe zucchini can be dark green, yellow or white.
Harvesting Your Ripe Zucchini
Small, early squash are thought to be the most tender and full of flavor, and if you’re diligent about picking them frequently, you can achieve a larger crop. This may or may not be desirable, of course, because you could wind up with more squash than you and your family members can possibly consume. Leaving some of the fruit on the plant will slow production.
Unpicked zucchini grows amazingly fast, even within a 24-hour period. If you don’t check your plants every day during harvest time – making sure to look under the large leaves for hiding fruit – the zucchinis can become enormous. While some people claim that zucchinis up to a foot in length can be eaten, the average size range for harvesting is six to eight inches. The ideal length also depends on the type of zucchini you’ve planted. When the fruit gets too large, the seeds and rind begin to harden, making it stringy and unpalatable.
To sum up, here are a few zucchini harvesting tips:
Begin harvesting the fruit when it’s approximately six inches long, and it’s the correct mature color according to the variety of zucchini you’ve planted. While picking zucchini, check that the fruit is firm. Softness indicates that the fruit is probably rotting and should be discarded.
While picking zucchini, check that the fruit is firm. Softness indicates that the fruit is probably rotting and should be discarded.
For picking zucchinis, use a sharp knife, pruners or scissors to cut the stem one or two inches from the fruit. Some growers grab the fruit by the base (where the flower was) and twist it slowly to break it off the plant. With this technique, however, sometimes the stem doesn’t give, and the fruit gets broken.
After you begin harvesting, check your plants daily. Zucchinis grow very quickly. Ideally, you want to pick the smaller fruits, which are better-tasting and more tender.
When you’re harvesting zucchini and looking around and under the leaves for fruit, make sure you handle the plant gently, so that you don’t break or damage the stems.