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How to Tell When Zucchini Is Ready to Harvest

zucchini image by Igor Zhorov from Fotolia.com

Zucchini, a summer squash, is an abundant producer in the home vegetable garden. Zucchinis ripen from midsummer until fall, continually blooming and producing until cold weather kills off the plant. Frequent harvesting encourages further fruit set on the plants, so pick the ripe ones daily during the height of the season. Zucchinis left too long on the plant become tough and woody, and are no longer fit for the kitchen. Harvesting the zucchinis at the proper time ensures they are also at their peak of flavor.

Inspect the plant for zucchinis that have reached 6 to 8 inches in length, as this is the size when most varieties begin ripening. Harvest vegetables that have glossy skin and are firm, but that can still be dented with a fingernail.

Grasp the ripe zucchini in one hand. Cut the stem ½ inch up from the zucchini with a sharp knife. Avoid pulling on the zucchini, as this can damage both the vegetable and the plant.

Check the plant daily once zucchinis begin reaching maturity. Harvest the vegetables as soon as they reach maturity.

Zucchini Harvest Season

When you plant the zucchini depends on your area's climate. The size of the zucchini should be a major factor in when your zucchini harvest season begins. The larger the fruit gets, the harder the seeds inside will become, and the spongier the flesh will be. For harvesting zucchinis, you should cut the fruit off the stem with a sharp knife. Picking off the zucchinis from the plant more frequently encourages the plant to produce more fruit over the course of the season. Check the plant daily after you make your first harvest, because the zucchini on the plant can add 1 to 2 inches of growth per day, and you will see more new zucchinis on the plant. The pollen of squash plants is sticky and too heavy to be carried by the wind. If you use pesticides during the day, or if your neighbors do, you may not have enough bees to properly pollinate your zucchini. Remove a male flower, which has four tall pistils in the center, and pull off the petals. Repeat the process to manually transfer pollen.

Tip

Zucchini plants trained to a stake are simpler to harvest, as the vegetables are held off the ground and are both easily visible and accessible.

Harvest round zucchini varieties when the skin is glossy and the vegetables are approximately 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Warning

Puncturing the skin on zucchinis at harvest may cause them to decline in quality more rapidly. Wear gloves to prevent damage from your fingernails so that the zucchini has a longer storage life.

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