The Ultimate Guide to Growing (and Eating) Zucchini

Growing enough zucchini for days and days? Find out what to do with extra zucchini when this high-yield veggie just keeps producing.

Growing Zucchini: Planting and Harvest Guide

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Zucchini is easy to grow from seed

If you’re interested in growing zucchini, here’s what you need to know. Sow four or five seeds in a 1-inch-tall hill (in full sun and well-draining soil) after last frost. When seedlings reach 2 to 3 inches tall, thin to two healthy plants per hill. Pick when fruits are immature, or they become tough and woody. Harvest long narrow varieties before they’re 2 inches in diameter and are about 6 to 8 inches long.

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History of Zucchini

Zucchini is originally native to Mexico, but the squash we know today is a variety brought to the United States by Italian immigrants. The early varieties, bred in Italy in the 16th century, were round. They were dubbed zucchini from zucca, meaning pumpkin, and ini, which means small. The elongated version we know, grow and love was developed near Milan.

The squash was used here but really took off in the early 1970s with the hippies and their focus on home gardens and vegetarianism. Soon, everyone was growing zucchini. It began popping up in seed collections (1973, for Burpee) and on grocery store counters. Zucchini cookbooks proliferated shortly after—because this veggie is generous to a fault!

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Zucchini Flowers

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Remove zucchini flowers from the plant to slow growth

You can slow down the production by eating the female flowers (look for a tiny zuke at the base of the blossom), stuffed with cheese or meat and sauced or fried.

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Cooking With Zucchini

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Zucchini frittata

Slice it, grill it, fill it, fry it, bake it, pickle it, grate it, turn it into zoodles—mild flavored zucchini is the most versatile veggie in the garden. Desperation may have something to do with all those variations, because the more you pick, the more the plant produces. And there’s usually one that gets away, hiding under leaves and reaching an enormous size.

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What to Do With Extra Zucchini

What to do with all that bounty? Eat it, donate it to a food bank, feed it to backyard chickens and rabbits…and have fun with it! Maybe hold a neighborhood contest for growing the biggest zucchini, with a potluck of zuke dishes. Use pumpkin carving tools to make designs in the outer skin for a centerpiece. Bat a wiffle ball with the giant ones, then save and dry the mature seeds for cardinals at the feeder.

When all else fails, celebrate April Fools’ Day in autumn: Play a joke on a friend or neighbor by sneakily placing your overgrown zukes among their plants. Or offload your extras on the doorstep of a friend or neighbor in the dark of night like the Tooth Fairy—but surprise, it’s a giant zuke. All’s fair when it comes to zucchini.

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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  • Prep: 15 min. Bake: 50 min. + cooling
  • Makes: 2 loaves (12 slices each)
  • 1 slice: 209 calories, 10g fat (1g saturated fat), 26mg cholesterol, 165mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate (17g sugars, 1g fiber), 3g protein
  • Recipe from Taste of Home magazine

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups shredded peeled zucchini

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder; gradually beat into sugar mixture until blended. Stir in zucchini. Transfer to two 8×4-in. loaf pans coated with cooking spray.
  2. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

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Sally Roth
Sally Roth is an award-winning author of more than 20 popular books about gardening, nature, and birds, including the best-selling Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible. Roth is also a contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. She and her husband share their home in the high Rockies with a variety of animals.