Tasty, healthy and versatile, zucchini is one of the most common vegetables in our home gardens. In hardly any home garden does one or the other zucchini plant not thrive over the summer and provide numerous lush fruits for consumption at the end of a phase of care and watering. But when is the right time to harvest zucchini?
The courgettes – growth and maturity
The zucchini is one of the summer squashes and thrives in a suitable sunny location with little effort and with a high yield. Their different varieties not only enrich the visual variety of the garden with yellow or green, as well as round or well-known oblong fruits, but also the versatility of the menu. The annual, herbaceous plant also becomes a true friend of self-sufficiency because it can not only be harvested once, but that it keeps sprouting new flowers over a comparatively long period of time, which usually extends from June to October , from which fruits ready for harvest develop when the weather is suitable.
This is how you can tell that zucchini harvest time has come
It is precisely this long ripening and harvesting phase that makes it all the more difficult to identify the perfect harvest time for zucchini. However, these identifying features are a good way to tell whether the courgettes are ready to be removed from the bush:
- Fruit fully developed in shape and colour
- Inflorescence at the front end has already dried up or fallen off
- Harvest maturity is given regardless of size (provided the fruits are fully developed), recommendations usually from a length of approx. 10cm
- After cutting: ripe fruit has firm, yellowish-white flesh, soapy plant sap escapes from the cut surfaces
Tip: Smaller and younger fruits tend to have a milder and more harmonious taste, while larger and older fruits are usually tart and more aromatic
From harvest to consumption
There are a few things to keep in mind both before and after harvesting the zucchini. After all, mistakes in removing it from the bush can significantly reduce the shelf life of the fruit, and also damage the plant itself. And temporary storage can also have a significant impact on shelf life and taste.
The right harvesting technique for zucchini
The actual harvest of the zucchini fruits can ultimately be described as simple. The hanging fruits, or fruits that usually lie on the ground from a certain size, are removed from the mother plant by turning, breaking off or cutting them off. On the other hand, there is no further harvesting technology. It is important to leave part of the style on the fruit. This style dries up and hardens as it dries. At the same time, the water-carrying channels, which were actually used to supply the mother plant, are closed. The fruit remains protected from drying out and has the well-known shelf life.
Storage – this is how the fruit stays fresh for as long as possible
Once the fruit has been harvested, the question of storage arises. Under optimal conditions, the fruit can be kept for around ten days, so that consumption or further processing does not have to follow immediately after harvesting. For correct storage and the longest possible shelf life without loss of quality, the following general conditions must be observed:
- Moderate storage temperature, as even and cool as possible, but not below 8° Celsius; therefore no storage in the refrigerator!
- Dry and light-protected storage location to avoid rotting and the development of bacteria and mold
- Ideally, store on a bed of straw to drain off any condensation that may occur
Harvesting zucchini flowers – an alternative
Every hobby gardener, hobby cooker or “just” passionate self-sufficient knows the zucchini fruit as an elementary part of the home kitchen. On the other hand, the use and consumption of the blossoms of this versatile cultivated plant is far less well known. If you are looking for an unusual dish or simply do not want to wait for the fruit to ripen, you can simply separate the fully grown zucchini flower from the fruit that is developing at the base and use it for preparation. It is known to be eaten raw as an accompaniment to salads, or especially in fried form as a snack or amuse-bouche with that certain something.
Tip: Even if this fact should be obvious to every hobby gardener, it is expressly pointed out again here that the decision in each individual case must be made either for the fruit or the flower. Logically, no more fruit will grow from a removed flower, while a mature fruit will no longer produce a flower.
Common mistakes when harvesting zucchini
As always, when harvesting the zucchini plant, there are a few things that can go wrong. In order to avoid the most common mistakes from the outset, they are briefly named here:
harvesting the fruit
- Removal of fruit without or with a slitting stalk – results in rapid moisture loss and fruit spoilage
- Fruit lies directly on the ground for too long before harvest – waterlogging from below can lead to mold and rot
- Too cool storage location – cell layers of the zucchini are attacked, the fruit spoils quickly
- Too warm storage location – rapid drying out due to evaporation
- Storage in sunlight – spoils quickly, as UV radiation attacks the plant skin and makes it porous
- Fruit is “allowed” to continue growing for too long – size increases, but taste and quality suffer from prolonged ripening
harvesting the flower
- All male or female flowers harvested – no further fruit to be expected as self-pollination is no longer possible
- Harvesting too late – withered flowers are hardly edible due to rapid spoilage