Zucchini are versatile vegetables and can be preserved well with the right method. We give tips on harvesting and storing zucchini as well as recipe suggestions for preserving and pickling.
If too many zucchinis ripen out at once, proper storage is an important issue [Photo: Leptospira / Shutterstock.com]
Growing zucchini ( Cucurbita pepo subsp. Pepo convar. Giromontiina ), also known as summer squash, is worthwhile in every kitchen garden, because with just a few plants you can provide yourself with the tasty fruits throughout the summer. Nutrient-rich soils or potting soil, such as our Plantura organic tomato and vegetable soil, also encourage the cucurbitaceae to bloom. While the zucchini is being cared for, many young fruits can be harvested. In midsummer there is a real zucchini glut. With proper storage or methods of preserving zucchini, the summer squash fruits can be enjoyed for a long time. We give you tips for the correct harvesting, storage and processing of zucchini.
Zucchini can be harvested early in summer from June. But how do you know when zucchini are ready for harvest? We give tips on the right harvest time and how to proceed.
When can you harvest zucchini?
Zucchini can be harvested for the first time around six to eight weeks after planting. The plants continuously produce new fruits over the summer. The harvest time for zucchini is therefore between June and the first frosts in autumn. Zucchini are harvested as young, physiologically unripe fruits, because they are tender and do not yet have any recognizable ovules. Whether round, white or yellow zucchini – the fruits can be harvested just a few days after flowering. Depending on the variety, they are then between 15 and 25 cm long and 200 to 400 g in weight. Regular harvesting promotes further flower formation and thus also the fruit set. You can harvest around 20 fruits or 4 to 6 kg of zucchini per plant in the course of the summer. Zucchini cannot be harvested too early, because the younger they are, the more tender, crisp and aromatic they taste. The ideal time of day to harvest the tender vegetables is in the early hours of the morning before the summer heat. The water content is then highest and the fruits are juicy.
Zucchinis are harvested when they are young – that's when they taste best [Photo: vaivirga / Shutterstock.com]
How do you harvest zucchini correctly?
Ideally, cut off the vegetables at a length of 15 to 20 cm with a sharp knife on the stem. Harvesting young fruits increases flower production, but older and larger specimens can be stored for longer.
Important note on poisonous zucchini : If zucchini taste bitter, they should definitely not be eaten! The reason for the bitter taste is the substance cucurbitacin, which is toxic and can cause severe gastrointestinal complaints. You can find out more on this in our article on zucchini and deadly cucurbitacin.
Harvesting zucchini flowers
A special delicacy in the kitchen is, in addition to the fruit, the flowers of the zucchini. The male flowers, recognizable by their long flower stalks and the missing ovary, are particularly suitable for this. It is best to cut off the flowers just before opening them. These can then be filled and used for baking or roasting. Make sure you use the zucchini flowers on the day of harvest, because they wilt quickly and are no longer suitable for consumption the next day.
Zucchini blossoms can be fried, filled or baked, but they only keep for a short time [Photo: photocrew1 / Shutterstock.com]
Zucchini are delicate vegetables that can only be stored for a limited time. We will give you tips on the ideal storage conditions for summer pumpkins.
How long can zucchini keep?
The shelf life of zucchini depends on the age of the fruit, the temperature and the humidity. Young zucchini fruits can only be stored for a few days, as they quickly lose water through their thin skin. The cold-sensitive vegetables can be stored for a maximum of one week at 10 ° C and a high humidity of between 90 and 95%. Older, larger specimens with a thick skin can be stored for up to two weeks at the same temperature. Zucchini that have already been cut should be consumed quickly within a few days, because they too suffer from fluid loss and microorganisms can quickly colonize them.
Store zucchini in the refrigerator
Zucchini are extremely sensitive to cold and should never be stored in the refrigerator. They quickly suffer cold damage there, lose most of their taste, become limp and often mushy when they are pulled out again.
Instead of storing zucchini in the refrigerator, it is better to freeze them straight away [Photo: Ahanov Michael / Shutterstock.com]
If you want to enjoy excess zucchini in winter too, freezing or processing is a long-term option. We present three different methods of preserving zucchini.
Freezing is a good way to store raw and cooked zucchini for months. For a fresh zucchini, proceed as follows: First cut the zucchini into medium-sized pieces. Add a little salt to remove most of the water from the fruit. After a few minutes, the water should be poured off and the pieces can be poured into a can or a freezer bag. Zucchini will keep for several months in the freezer. Pre-cooked zucchini can be placed directly in the freezer. Even ready-made courgette dishes such as a vegetable ratatouille can be stored in the freezer for about six months.
Put in zucchini
Pickling is a good way to preserve large quantities of zucchini for the winter. Zucchini can be easily pickled in brine, vinegar or oil. For pickled zucchini you need the ingredients onions, water, vinegar, salt, sugar and mustard seeds. In the first step, the zucchini and onions are chopped up. Then boil both with the remaining ingredients for a few minutes in the pot. There are no limits to the composition of the ingredients. However, when boiling down, care should be taken not to heat the zucchini for too long, as they quickly become mushy. To fill the glasses, zucchini and onion pieces are taken from the boiling stock and layered alternately. As the last step, the jar is filled with the hot seasoning mixture and sealed tightly. The glasses are then optimally stored in a cool and dark place such as in the cellar. After about three months, the glass is finished and can be enjoyed.
Pickled zucchini keep for a long time and can be used in many ways [Photo: Bubushonok / Shutterstock.com]
Preserve and reduce zucchini
Those who like to plan for the long term should think about canning zucchini. Canning and canning involve the same process: the preservation of vegetables or fruit by heating them to a high temperature. The difference to pickling is that the vegetables are cooked in the closed jar when they are canned. This treatment allows the contents to be stored for significantly longer. One way to cook down spicy zucchini is as follows:
- Wash the zucchini and cut into cubes.
- Mix the cubes together with the onions, garlic, mustard seeds, salt, sugar and vinegar and leave to stand overnight.
- The next day, clean the preserving jars thoroughly and boil them with hot water for a few minutes.
- Pour the mixture into the mason jars and close tightly.
- Boil the preserving jars at 80 ° C for 20 minutes. As an alternative to the automatic cooker, the glasses can be heated in a water bath in the oven.
By boiling, zucchini can be stored for several months to years without any problems.
Tip : An unusual but extremely delicious way to cook zucchini is to make jam. Mix the zucchini with the same amount of apples, chop them up and add the preserving sugar, lemon juice, star anise and cinnamon. The mixture should steep overnight and can be boiled the next day and filled into sterile jars.
The variety of different shapes and colors of summer pumpkins is immense. In our overview we present yellow, white and striped as well as round and climbing zucchini varieties.