Zucchini is a versatile vegetable and a typical summer squash. Zucchinis are used for culinary purposes and are even enjoyed raw if they are young and ripe. But will Zucchini ripen off the vine?
Zucchinis usually can ripen off the vine. After harvesting, place it in a container and leave it under the sunlight for 1-2 days at a warm temperature. The Zucchini will start ripening and become sweeter like those in the plant.
There has been a confusion among many gardeners about it. Reading this article till the end will clear all your confusion. Along with that, we will also share ways to store the Zucchinis after harvesting.
Determining Ripeness on the Vine
Once the Zucchini plants start thriving, in no time, they will start producing flowers, too, provided you have taken good care of them.
After the fruits are produced, you must regularly monitor them to check for signs indicating that Zucchinis are ready to pick.
To understand and determine the ripeness of the Zucchinis, you have to check for the sure signs of ripening in the fruits.
Zucchinis are best picked when they reach 6 to 8 inches in length and 2 inches in diameter.
At this stage, the Zucchinis have started to ripen or are still ripening, but not fully ripe.
I have been growing Zucchini and many other vegetables for a long time.
Every time, it is a fantastic journey, from sowing seeds to picking them.
When I pick up the Zucchinis, instead of calculating the number of days, I look for certain signs that help me determine whether the Zucchinis have started ripening and are ready to pick.
These are some common signs that will help you determine the ripeness of the Zucchinis:
- Check the size and shape of the Zucchinis. They should be 6-8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.
- Check the Zucchini skin and texture. The skin should be firm, smooth, and shiny without blemishes or soft spots. The color should be dark green.
- Feel its weight. A ripe Zucchini will feel heavy, indicating the moisture content inside.
- Gently squeeze the fruit. It should be firm and slightly soft, neither too soft nor too hard.
- Check for the stem. A ripe Zucchini’s stem will be dry and brown, indicating it is ready to pick.
It is essential to pick the Zucchini at the appropriate time for consumption.
Generally, Zucchinis get ready for harvest 45-55 days after you plant or sow them.
But the timing can change based on the cultivar, your Zone, and growing conditions.
So, to clearly understand when you harvest the Zucchini, check for some significant signs.
These symptoms are the same as those signs you look for while determining whether Zucchinis have ripened.
Let me share again:
- Check for the size. It should be 6-8 inches long and 2 inches wide.
- Check for the weight. Heavyweight indicates the water content inside the fruit. It means that the Zucchini reached the perfect stage of harvest.
- The color should be dark green.
- The texture and skin should be smooth, firm, and shiny.
It is common to pick Zucchinis when they have started ripening but have not entirely ripe.
At this time, you will see the above signs in the fruit.
At this stage, the Zucchinis will have a mild flavor which tastes good.
Moreover, cooking and sauteing them will be easier.
Pick the Zucchinis when they are still firm, started ripening but are not fully ripe.
If you examine and understand that it needs to be more ripe, you can ripen it off the vine.
Once you know the Zucchinis are ready to pick, take a knife or pruner and cut the Zucchini from the plant.
Keep a 1-inch stem on the fruit to prevent it from rotting.
Ripening After Harvest
Did you know that Zucchinis can ripen off the vine? I did not know until I saw it myself.
I was once picking Zucchinis, but a few of them were still unripe, and I didn’t realize.
I didn’t know what to do.
Though younger Zucchinis are sweet and tasty, extremely young and unripe, Zucchinis are not edible.
The skin will be very hard, and you cannot eat them, just like you cannot eat the overripe Zucchinis.
Thankfully, my grandparents were visiting us.
My granny shared with me a way to ripen them off the vine.
She suggested that keeping them in a sunny area with a warm temperature for a day or two with some humidity around them can help them ripen even off the vine.
I did it, and she was right. The Zucchinis ripened after two days.
Both the color and texture signified that the Zucchini had started ripening.
However, it won’t be as consistent as those on the vine.
Moreover, the weight might not be as heavy as the ripened Zucchinis in the plant.
Zucchinis are best picked when they reach 6-8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.
Suppose you have checked for the signs and then picked, but the Zucchinis were not ripe. Or, you have picked them unripe deliberately.
You can ripen them off the vine after picking.
Be it the Zucchinis with the exact ripening signs or the unripe early-harvesting Zucchinis; both can be ripened off the vine.
Some people pick up the Zucchinis after watching for the signs of harvest.
But if you want the fruit to be a bit more sweet or the signs deceived you, ripen them off the vine.
You can do the same if you have accidentally or deliberately picked the unripe Zucchinis.
Indoor Ripening Conditions
As I mentioned previously, Zucchinis can ripen off the vine.
Now the question is, how do you do it?
To ripen the Zucchini off the vine, place it in a container and leave it in a warm, sunny place for one or two days.
While ripening, the temperature has to be about 80 to 85°F, and the humidity should be around 60-75%.
Average room temperature and humidity should also work.
Some people consider cutting them into halves and placing them under a sunny area for a day or two.
It increases the ripening process.
Ensure that the temperature and humidity are neither too less nor too much.
It should be within the recommended range.
Otherwise, the fruit can overripe and start rotting.
A greenhouse table or a windowsill, especially the south-facing window, will work for an indoor setting.
Even if you do not keep them in a sunny area, the Zucchinis will still ripen if stored at room temperature with a standard humidity level.
The process will be slower, but it will work.
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Factors Affecting Ripening Off the Vine
Several factors will affect the ripening while you ripen Zucchinis off the vine.
Here are some key factors I have learned while researching about ripening Zucchinis off the vine:
- Temperature can play a significant role during the ripening process. Zucchinis ripen faster at warmer temperatures. But it should not be excessively high as that can damage your fruit instead of ripening.
- Humidity does not matter much to the Zucchinis as long as they receive enough air circulation. But it can accelerate the ripening process after picking. Make sure that it is not high. That will overripe and rot the fruit in no time.
- Light is an essential factor for the Zucchinis. A proper amount of light can help the fruit to ripen off the vine. But do not expose them to too much light. That can degrade the fruit quality. The fruits should not be exposed to excessive direct sunlight, even in the plants.
- If you have kept the Zucchinis indoors, you might want to keep them with some other fruits. Fruits like bananas and tomatoes release ethylene gas. It can further influence the ripening of the Zucchinis.
- Maintain proper air circulation, especially when the humidity is high, and you are ripening them off the vine. It will prevent excessive moisture buildup and mold.
- Harvesting Zucchinis that have already started ripening are more likely to ripen than those that have entirely ripened. Ripening the latter will lead to overripe fruits.
Once you have harvested the Zucchinis, you need to store them properly.
Even after picking, the Zucchinis can ripen off the vine if they receive ideal conditions.
Let’s say you have picked the Zucchinis in a condition where you want to enjoy it like that and do not want it to ripen further.
Proper storage is essential in that case so they do not ripen further.
You have picked Zucchinis early but want them to ripen more and store them.
Please keep them in an open container for a day or two and then store them properly to stop further ripening.
Nobody wants an overripe Zucchinis, and proper storage stops the fruit from over-ripening.
Here are some ways to store the Zucchinis:
Storing in the refrigerator
Zucchinis will store best in a dry environment.
So, you can place them into the crisper drawer of your fridge.
Please put them in a plastic or paper bag with one end open for air circulation.
The low humidity inside the fridge will keep the Zucchinis from further ripening and rotting.
The Zucchini will stay fresh and last 7 to 14 days if stored properly.
The skin may shrivel as the days pass, but that won’t be much of a problem.
You need to keep things dry.
Also, try to keep them away from fruits that release ethylene gas.
It can influence ripening.
Please do not wash your Zucchinis until you are ready to use them immediately.
Storing cut Zucchinis
If you have already cut the Zucchinis, you can still store them.
However, it would be best to consume such Zucchinis.
Store these freshly cut Zucchinis in a crisper drawer in a tightly sealed, airtight container or a zip-lock bag for 4-5 days.
If you have made Zoodles, you must find a way to use them instead of storing them in the fridge.
They will become soggy and limp quickly inside the fridge.
Store in the Freezer
If you have a surplus amount of Zucchini as the summer winds, you can store Zucchini in the freezer.
Make sure to do it correctly to avoid them from becoming mushy.
If stored properly, you can save them for 3 months.
Shred the Zucchinis with a box grater.
Then steam, cool, and pack them in a heavy-duty resealable bag for the freezer.
It is excellent for recipes that need shredded Zucchini, like Zucchini bread.
If you prefer slices or zoodles, cut them up and blanch them for a minute in hot water.
Remove the water and let them dry.
Then, place them in the freezer on a backing sheet for 1-2 hours.
Take them out, put them into the freezer-safe bags, and store them in the freezer.
This method will keep the sliced or spiraled Zucchinis from sticking together.
Comparing Vine-Ripened and Off-the-Vine Ripening
While ripening some of my unripe Zucchinis off the vine, I discovered slight differences between the vine-ripened Zucchinis and the off-the-vine ripened Zucchinis.
- The Zucchinis that have ripened on the vine will look more fresh and vigorous than those ripened off the vine.
- The vine-ripened Zucchinis will have a dark green color as chlorophyll from the plant breaks down when they are still in the plant, leading to a deeper pigment. But the off-the-vine ripened will have no such things, as you have already cut them from the plant.
- The vine-ripened Zucchinis will have a more developed and intense flavor. The off-the-vine ripened Zucchinis will also be sweeter to taste, but they may not be as robust as the vine-ripened ones.
- The vine-ripened Zucchinis will still receive enough moisture from the plant and the soil. That’s why they will be heavy to weigh, but that’s not the case for the off-the-vine ripened Zucchinis. The heavy weight of the fruit indicates the moisture content.
Except for these, there won’t be much difference.
Both will have a sweeter taste with a soft but firm texture.
These are some of the differences I have discovered because I have witnessed the changes.
Tips for Successful Off-the-Vine Ripening
If you want the Zucchinis to ripen off the vine after harvesting, you can do it if you provide them with the ideal conditions.
Ripening the Zucchinis off the vine can be more complicated than ripening them when they are still on the plant.
So, here are some successful tips that will help you ripe the Zucchinis off the vine properly without any damage:
- Harvest the right Zucchinis. Slightly unripe Zucchinis or the young fruits that have just started ripening are the ones that can be ripened off the vine. The fruit should not be entirely ripe. Choose for Zucchinis that are 5-6 inches long and 2 inches wide.
- While harvesting, let the fruit have 1 inch of stem. It will keep your fruit fresh and prevent rotting while ripening.
- Since you will ripen them off the vines, do not bruise any fruits. That can rot your fruit during the ripening process.
- To ripen the Zucchinis off the vine, keep them in a sunny area with room temperature and average humidity. Ensure not to expose them to harsh or excessive conditions, be it sunlight, temperature, or humidity.
- Keep the Zucchini in a container in an open area with adequate air circulation. It will ripen the fruits perfectly without any rotting.
- Put paper towels over the container and then place the Zucchinis. The towels will absorb the excess moisture, encourage the perfect ripening, and prevent rotting.
- Though it will take 2-3 days to ripen, you should check the Zucchinis regularly for signs of ripening.
- For faster ripening, you can cut open the Zucchini in half and then keep them in a container in a sunny area at warm or room temperature.
Potential Drawbacks and Benefits
Ripening the Zucchinis off the vine has both benefits and drawbacks.
Let’s learn the benefits first:
- Harvesting the Zucchinis before they are fully unripe and ripening them later allows you to control the timing of picking them. By this, you can manage the harvests while receiving a surplus amount of Zucchinis.
- If not taken good care of, the Zucchinis can get attacked by pests and diseases, especially those growing outside on the ground. Harvesting them at the right time saves them from getting attacked and damaged by these pests and diseases.
- Zucchinis are fast growers, and within no time, an unripe fruit will become completely ripe within a day or two. When you pick the unripe or young Zucchinis, you are stopping them from getting overripe.
- Unripe Zucchinis may not have a strong flavor like ripe Zucchinis, but you can still enjoy and use them. Since they are young, they are easier to cook and saute.
- Now, the drawbacks:
- The vine-ripened Zucchinis have a more robust flavor than those ripened off the vine.
- The color of the off-the-vine ripened Zucchinis won’t be as pigmented as the vine-ripened ones.
- The off-the-vine ripened Zucchinis won’t be as heavy as the vine-ripened Zucchinis. The latter stays in the plant and receives enough water you produce. So, they will have more water content than those that have ripened off the vine.
- The vine-ripened Zucchinis will have more nutrient content than those ripened off the vine.
- Picking too many unripe Zucchinis can reduce the plant’s ability to produce new fruits.
Zucchinis can be ripened off the vine. Ripening the Zucchinis off the vine is fine, as it allows you to control the harvest timing and get a good amount of Zucchinis in the future.
But I suggest letting them ripe on the plant if you want a better quality fruit. Whether you have picked an unripe Zucchini or a young zucchini that has just started ripening, you can ripen both off the vine.
Take an open container, place a paper towel, and put the fruit over it. Please leave it in a sunny area with warm temperatures and standard or slightly high humidity.
You can also keep it in a room with room temperature and standard humidity. Ensure that the weather is not too warm, humidity shouldn’t be too high, and the sunlight should not be extreme.
It can either overripe your fruit or rot and damage it. If you want to enjoy the Zucchinis as it is after picking, store them properly to avoid them from ripening further. Wrap them in a paper towel and store them in a refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.
If you have cut the Zucchinis, store them inside an airtight container or zip-lock bag. To store them for longer, around 3 months, shred the Zucchinis or make zoodles, steam, cool, and pack to store them in the freezer. If you have sliced them, blanch them, dry them, and pack them in freezer-safe bags to store in the freezer.
What happens if I pick Zucchinis early?
While it’s possible, these Zucchinis will not be as flavorful as those that have begun to ripen or entirely ripened. Moreover, picking too many unripe Zucchinis reduces the plant’s ability to produce new fruits.
What should be the minimum size and texture while picking Zucchini?
To enjoy the Zucchinis at their best, you can pick them when they are young, measuring 6-8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. The texture should be firm, and the skin should be dark green.
Reference: Zucchini Wikipedia