When it comes to harvesting zucchini, the size of the squash is the main indicator that your crop is ready to be picked. If you let the zucchini get too big, the seeds will be large and the flesh won't be quite as tender. However, large zucchini squash are still very edible and they taste almost as good. Additionally, if you continue to harvest the zucchini squash before they get too big, the plants will continue to produce more fruit. During their peak production time, it's not uncommon to harvest zucchini several times a week.
Zucchini is best harvested when the fruit is about 6 inches long. At this stage, the skin is still very tender and the seeds are quite small. If you intend to make stuffed zucchini or zucchini bread, you can let the squash grow a bit larger. If left unharvested, zucchini squash will easily reach 2-3 feet long and 8-10 inches in diameter.
When harvesting zucchini, use a knife or shears and cut the stem 1 inch above the squash. Do not try to pull or twist the squash off the vine as you will risk damaging the plant and root system. Remember, zucchini plants won't tolerate root disturbance. Even the slightest tug on the plant could displace the roots enough that the plant will suffer greatly.
If you are interested in harvesting the zucchini blossoms, wait until the flowers have just started to open. They are the most tender and easiest to stuff at this stage. Again, use a knife or shears and cut the stem about an inch above the blossom. You can trim the stems later, before stuffing and cooking.
Zucchini are best eaten within a few days of harvesting them. Because of their high water content, they don't
store well. They will stay fresh for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. If you have a bumper crop and have no other options, it's possible to freeze zucchini. You can slice them and place in freezer bags in a freezer. They will keep for 2-3 months. You can also blanch them for 2 minutes in boiling water and then plunge them into an ice water bath for 2 minutes. They can then be frozen and will last up to 6 months. However, keep in mind when freezing zucchini that the quality will suffer. The texture will be slightly soggy and the taste will be diminished. Zucchini can also be pickled much like cucumbers. Our favorite way to store extra zucchini is by making it into zucchini bread and then freezing that. In the last few years, the FDA has recommended that zucchini NOT be canned due to high risks of bacterial contamination.
We hope you have a bumper crop of zucchini all summer long. Now that you've begun harvesting zucchini, it's time for a few recipe ideas.