When to Pick Zucchini: A Complete Guide

Zucchini is an excellent squash to grow because it grows quickly and easily. Like with all other garden produce, it is important to know when to pick zucchini so that you can enjoy it at its tastiest! So, when exactly should you pick zucchini?

Pick zucchini when it reaches approximately six inches long or the length of a grown adult’s hand. When picked too late, zucchini can become bitter and soft, so it is better to pick it when it is no longer than seven or eight inches.

The rest of this article will discuss when to pick zucchini in greater detail. It will also discuss how to pick zucchini and the best ways to store it once it’s been harvested. So, be sure to keep reading to learn more!

An image of a young woman holding zucchini, green zucchini leaves in background.

How to Know When Zucchini Is Ready to Pick

Zucchini is ready to pick when it reaches approximately six inches long, but there is no harm in picking it earlier than this. It should feel firm and have a deep green color, unless it is a different variety of zucchini, such as a yellow or orange squash. 

One of the wonderful things about zucchini is that you can harvest it at (pretty much) any time, but it should not be harvested too late. Zucchini continues to ripen after being harvested. If it was harvested it too soon and it is not mature enough yet, you can leave it for a few days.

Although zucchini can be harvested early without causing any problems, you should not leave it on the plant for too long. Leaving it on for too long will slow down the growth of new zucchini, and it won’t taste as sweet, either.

When to pick zucchini: what color a zucchini should be

When picking a zucchini it should be dark green in most cases. However, there are other zucchini varieties such as yellow, orange, or pale green. It’s important to know what variety you planted to know what color it should be when picked.

Additionally, it’s always best to harvest zucchini frequently to promote new growth.

How Do You Know When Zucchini Varieties Are Ready to Pick?

It will be obvious when a zucchini variety is ready to pick judging by its size, color, and texture. For example, if it’s a black beauty variety it should be dark green when it is ready to pick; it should feel firm rather than soft. A soft zucchini indicates it has been on the plant too long.

There are so many zucchini varieties, so it’s hard to explain when to pick each one. So, let’s discuss the most common types below.

Black beauty

The black beauty variety is the most common type of zucchini. This one is ready to pick when it has reached a deep green color that looks almost black. An image of a black beauty variety is likely what most people think of when they hear the word zucchini.

You can pick this zucchini at any time, but most people like to pick them when they reach approximately six inches long.

Bush zucchini

Bush zucchini is grown on a shrub plant and looks pretty similar to the black beauty variety. The bush zucchini should be picked when it is a dark green color. However, it doesn’t tend to be as dark as the black beauty, which often looks so dark that it appears black!

Like the black beauty variety, bush zucchini should also be harvested when it’s around six inches long.

Gourmet gold

Zucchini of the gourmet gold variety should be a bright yellow-orange color when it is ready to be picked. These zucchinis are beautiful summer squash because of how bright and cheerful they look!

As with other varieties, these ones should also be firm to the touch when being picked. You should pick gourmet gold zucchini once it is six to eight inches long.

Round zucchini

Most zucchini varieties are long and slender, but the round zucchini is undoubtedly an exception! This variety is a lot bigger than the others, but its taste is practically the same. 

Round zucchini should be green when it’s ready to be picked, and you should let it reach approximately seven inches in diameter.

An image of ripe harvest of pumpkins and zucchini of different varieties.

How Big Should You Let Zucchini Get?

The ideal size of zucchini is approximately six inches long, but you can pick it before it reaches this length if you want. Ideally, zucchini should not grow longer than eight inches because the texture will begin to soften, and it won’t taste quite as good.

It’s perfectly fine to pick zucchini when it’s shorter than six inches in length because it will continue to ripen for a while after being picked. The earlier the zucchini is picked, the sweeter it should taste, which is why some people like to pick them earlier rather than later.

What’s the Longest You Can Grow Zucchini Without Tasting Bad?

You can grow zucchini up to approximately eight or nine inches without it tasting bad, but it will begin to lose its sweet flavor if it gets much bigger than this. That is why a zucchini that is five or six inches is the most ideal size for picking.

Keep an eye on your zucchini every day because it grows super-fast! If the zucchini plant is in full sun and the soil is favorable (organic and well-drained), there is a much higher chance that the zucchini will grow bigger much quicker.

So, if you don’t want it to get too big and the plant is in full sunlight, keep a very close eye on it. All it takes is two or three days for the zucchini to grow from a little baby plant to a giant, so you should never forget to check on it regularly!

Note: if you have super-large zucchini, they’re still edible. They do better in baked goods than being eaten as a side dish. Time to make zucchini brownies or bread!

How to Pick Zucchini

To pick zucchini, it’s a good idea to take a gentle look around your plant because the giant leaves may be hiding some zucchinis. Once you’ve chosen a zucchini to pick, it can be twisted until it comes off. Alternatively, the stem can be cut to remove it from the plant.

It’s important to be gentle when picking zucchini because you don’t want to damage the plant. The simplest way is to simply twist it, making sure to leave some of the stems on; this will keep it fresher for slightly longer.

However, another fantastic way to pick zucchini is by using a blade or scissors to cut the stem. This will give you more control than twisting does.

If desired, you can also pick the flowers on the plant because they’re entirely edible! (source)

There are many things that can be done with the flowers, including deep frying them or having them as part of a salad.

Best Ways to Store Zucchini

One of the best ways to store zucchini is in the refrigerator. Place the whole uncut zucchini in an open plastic bag to promote air circulation and keep it as dry as possible. You can also freeze or freeze-dry zucchini to make it last longer.

If planning to use the zucchini within a week, refrigerate it. Store it in the driest part of the refrigerator because moisture will cause the zucchini to spoil faster. The best way to keep it in the fridge is to use a plastic bag, but I leave one end open. 

Zucchini will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, so you may want to freeze it and use it later. Avoid placing it straight in the freezer from raw because it will get very watery, which certainly isn’t pleasant!

To combat this, blanch the zucchini before freezing it. Here are some valuable tips on how to blanch and freeze zucchini:

  • Chop the zucchini into small pieces
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil
  • Place the zucchini pieces in the water
  • Leave to boil for one or two minutes
  • Remove the zucchini from the water and place in an ice bath for two or three minutes
  • Remove the zucchini from the ice bath and let it dry
  • Place in plastic or on a baking tray and put in the freezer

Zucchini generally lasts up to three or four months in the freezer before losing quality, so you should aim to use it within this timeframe.

When you freeze-dry zucchini, it freeze-dries best if sliced or shredded first. Then it can be stored in Mylar bags or mason jars with an oxygen absorber.

An image of zucchini and zucchini flowers in a wooden storage.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

It’s best to pick zucchini when it is approximately six inches long or the same length as your hand. However, it can be picked before it reaches this length if desired. Always make sure the zucchini is the right color and texture before picking.

For more information about zucchini, read our other articles answering commonly asked questions about the amazing squash.

Cite this article as: “When to Pick Zucchini: A Complete Guide.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 8 March 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/when-to-pick-zucchini-a-complete-guide/.

Resources

It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.

  • “Growing Summer Squash and Zucchini in Home Gardens.” UMN Extension, extension.umn.edu/vegetables/growing-summer-squash-and-zucchini. Accessed 17 Feb. 2022.
  • “Summer Squash (Zucchini).” University of Maryland Extension, extension.umd.edu/resource/summer-squash-zucchini. Accessed 17 Feb. 2022.

By Kimberly Starr

I'm a ginger who loves being outside, homesteading, and spending time with my family. I believe humor is the best medicine, followed very closely by chocolate and tacos.