Zucchinis should be picked when they are around the 6-8″ range and are the correct color. But the right size and color depend on the variety you’re growing.
Zucchini is a delicious squash that is famously easy to grow, and can be picked throughout the summer and fall harvest seasons. A relative of melons, pumpkins, and gourds, 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 hide 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. When the zucchini gets too big the 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 To Know When Zucchini Is Ready To Pick
Grower’s can judge if a zucchini is ready to be picked based on its size, color, and firmness. A zucchini squash should always be firm, and any soft fruits should be discarded or composted.
Generally, a zucchini is ready to pick when it reaches six to eight inches long and is the correct color for the species.
Many growers consider small, early squash to be the most flavorful. Fortunately, this plant can be harvested at any time, from its blossom stage to full size. However, full size varies from species to species.
If growers decide to pick their squash early, they should also plan to pick often since zucchini plants will produce more fruits as they are harvested.
Backyard growers often discover that they have too many squash for their family. The best way to keep a zucchini plant from overproducing, or to slow down a fast producer, is to leave a few fruits and allow them to grow.
While overly large fruits can be tough and unpalatable, this will help the plant slow down the rate at which it grows new fruits.
How Big Should Zucchini Be When Picked
Ideally, zucchini squash reach six to eight inches long (15-20 cm). While zucchini can reach over a foot long and over two pounds in weight, the fruit can become flavorless and tough if allowed to grow too large. That being said, each variety of zucchini has different growing and harvesting requirements.
Black Beauties for example are a dark green and can easily grow up to 12 to 24 inches if left alone, but are generally at their most flavorful when on the smaller side of that range.
The curved Gourmet Gold should be harvested at about half that size. They can be picked young (at just a few inches long), or they can be picked at their full size, about six to eight inches long. Some round varieties can be harder to judge from size when determining when to pick. Generally, these should be the size of a billiard ball, about five inches long.
What Color Should Zucchini Be When Picked
Depending on the variety of the zucchini, it can be green, yellow, or white when ready to be picked. There are many common varieties of zucchini and each will have a distinct color when ready to be picked. Regardless of variety and color, all zucchini should be firm to the touch when picked.
Dunjas and Black Beauties should be a near solid dark green before they are picked. Black Beauties are the iconic zucchini that most people imagine when talking about this fruit; a large, dark squash with small, lighter green or yellow spots.
Golden Egg and Gourmet Gold varieties should be a bright yellow color. The long and elegant Rambicante should be a light green when harvested, while Caserta should be light green with darker streaks.
The two common striped varieties are Gadzukes and Cocozelle. Gadzukes should be dark green with bright yellow stripes while Cocozelle have two shades of light green stripes.
How To Cut Zucchini From the Plant
The easiest way to harvest ripe zucchini is to cut the zucchini from the plant. To harvest zucchini, hold the squash in one hand and your knife in the other and slice cleanly through the zucchini’s stem. The more frequently growers pick zucchinis, the more the plants will produce.
Pulling the fruit from the plant can damage the plant itself, which is why it is best to cut the fruit away from the plant at the stem. Growers need to be sure to inspect the whole plant carefully. Its broad leaves easily hide fruits that might be hiding closer to the ground, which is why many of the largest fruits are often found close to the ground.
All growers need to harvest their fruits are a sharp knife, a way to carry the large amount of fruit zucchinis usually produce, and gloves. Many growers choose to wear gloves to protect themselves from the zucchini’s spiny stems. However, be sure not to handle the plant too roughly and avoid damaging the fragile stems and any blossoms or unripe fruits.
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