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If you are out and about at farmers markets this summer, don’t be afraid of the monster zucchini! Finding fresh and unique food for a bargain is always exciting.  This weekend at the market I found a zucchini the size of Texas for .50 cents!  I hesitated to buy it because I was taught that they “aren’t as tender and have more seeds.” But I wanted to find out for myself if this were true, plus I was really curious how many dishes I could make from one large zucchini.

Traditional harvesting instruction for zucchini says to pick when they are young and tender, bright green, about 6-8 inches long and with no signs of bruising or softness.

While experimenting with this monster zucchini I learned:

  1. The inside was not tough. The inside was very edible and tasted almost as good as smaller ones. However, it did have a giant seed pocket that I removed.
  2. Large zucchini have longer shelf lives.  While smaller zucchinis have skin that is softer, large zucchinis skin may be tougher (think of it like a pumpkin shell) to protect the flesh for a long time and allow it to continue to grow inside without getting soft quickly.  This tougher skin can help keep large zucchini fresh for at least a month after harvesting instead of 3-5 days. If you find that the skin is too tough to eat, just peel it! Then use the inside to cook and eat as you would normally.
  3. You can save the big seeds inside for planting next year. One large zucchini could have hundreds of seeds in it! Just like pumpkin seeds you just need to dry them out, then you can save them and plant next year…free food!
  • You can make baked goods with zucchini that can be frozen for later use.  Making zucchini bread is one of my favorite things to do to use up zucchini! If you need some inspiration, try this Zucchini Cheddar Bread recipe that won first place for quick breads at last year’s Ohio State Fair. If you don’t want to freeze baked bread, you can also grate and freeze zucchini, then thaw and use it to bake with later.
  • You can use large zucchini slices to make zucchini lasagna. Simply follow your regular lasagna recipes but use zucchini in place of lasagna noodles.  Cutting the zucchini lengthwise lends itself to the perfect lasagna “noodle” and softens as it cooks. How perfect is that! No mess with boiling a noodle first, and you get extra veggies in your meal. 

In the end, my .50 cent monster zucchini experiment paid off!   I made lasagna that served 10 nurses on my son’s cardiac unit, 2 loaves of zucchini bread, and baked zucchini rounds rolled in egg, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. PLUS, I even saved some of the big seeds to plant for next year!

Author: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Licking County

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County         

Sources:

University of Minnesota Extension (2018). Growing Summer Squash and Zucchini in Home Gardens. https://extension.umn.edu/vegetables/growing-summer-squash-and-zucchini-home-gardens#harvest-and-storage-341015

Homegrown & Healthy (2020). What to do with overgrown zucchini. https://homegrownandhealthy.com/what-to-do-with-overgrown-zucchini/

Ohio State University Extension (2015). Food Preservation: Freezing Vegetables. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5333

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