What to Do with Giant Zucchini

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We’ve all been surprised by that oversized zucchini hiding in the garden. Before you toss yours into the compost heap, let us tell you about all the ways you can use giant zucchini in the kitchen.

Feature photo: Chuck Olsen/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It doesn’t seem to matter how religiously you harvest your zucchini throughout the summer. Inevitably, one day you’ll walk out to your garden to find a zucchini fruit large enough to use as a baseball bat. 

Despite my best efforts at thorough harvesting, I end up with dozens of these oversized zucchini—technically called marrow once they’ve reached such a large size—each year. If you’re in the same boat, don’t fret, those overgrown veggies can be used for more than just playing baseball. In fact, they make some of the most delicious zucchini bread you’ve ever tasted (keep reading to see the recipe).

In this article, I’ll answer all of your oversized zucchini questions and tell you what to do with giant zucchini so none of your hard work goes to waste. 

When Should You Harvest Zucchini?

The key to avoiding gargantuan zucchini is to pick early and often. A fruit that looks a touch on the small side on Friday will tip the scales by Sunday (or so it seems). Luckily, you can harvest zucchini at varying sizes depending on the recipe you plan to use it in.

Most recipes that call for zucchini require immature fruits about 5 to 7 inches long, similar to what you’d find in the produce section of your local grocery store. Zucchini this size tends to have thin, smooth skin and a blossom end no larger than a billiard ball. Depending on the variety, the color may be light green, dark green-black, or yellow.

But zucchini can also be harvested before it reaches 5 inches in length. These uber-immature zucchinis are exceptionally tender and mild and make a great raw addition to salads and veggie platters. They won’t keep long after harvesting though, so be sure to use them up quickly.

Are Big Zucchinis Edible?

If you miss the window for both super-small and normal-sized zucchinis and end up with a giant zucchini, don’t worry, this size of zucchini is edible, too.

Hand holding giant zucchini in a garden
Photo courtesy of vigilant20 (דָרוּך) on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The word zucchini technically refers to the immature form of the fruit that comes from these plants. Once the fruit grows near its full size, it is called marrow. 

Marrow’s store much longer than immature zucchinis—staying fresh on the countertop for weeks after harvesting. This is thanks to their thicker skin and drier flesh. These qualities are great for the cellar but make these big zucchinis less palatable than smaller versions.

When using marrow, you will often discard the skin on the outside and the seedy center and use only the white flesh between. This flesh is drier and stringier than normal zucchinis but works well in recipes where extra moisture is a bad thing or where a little extra texture elevates the dish. Keep reading to see our favorite recipes for large zucchini.

How to Harvest Zucchini Seeds

In addition to their use in certain recipes, large zucchini are also good for harvesting zucchini seeds. In fact, if you want to grow your own seeds to plant next year, you have to let your zucchini fully mature before you harvest.

To harvest zucchini seeds from giant marrow, start by slicing the fruit in half from the stem end to the blossom end. Then use a spoon to scrape the seedy center of each half into a bowl or large jar. Add a bit of water to the seed-flesh mixture and let it soak for one to two days.

Using a spoon to scrape out seeds from a large zucchini
Use a spoon to scrape out seeds from a large zucchini | Photo Courtesy of Backyard Boss

After a couple of days, add more water to the container to separate the heavy, mature seeds at the bottom from the undeveloped seeds and flesh that will rise to the top. Scoop off the floating debris and discard it. Pour the rest of the seeds into a colander and spray with water until all the extra flesh has washed away.

Spread the cleaned seeds onto a fine screen or wax paper and allow them to dry for a few days. Mix them periodically throughout this process to assure no moisture is left on the seeds. Once they are completely dry, pour them into a paper envelope and store them in a cool, dry, dark place until next spring.

Can You Freeze Raw Zucchini?

If you have a giant zucchini—or multiple giant zucchinis—you are likely to end up with more of this vegetable than you’ll be able to use at once. Freezing the extra is a great way to avoid waste, but there are a few things you need to know before you bag up all that extra marrow.

First, you can freeze raw zucchini, but only if you don’t care about the texture once it is thawed. Most baked goods will taste fine with frozen zucchini or fresh. If you plan to make muffins or bread from your zucchini, then freezing it is simple. Just grate your extra into storage bags or containers and pop them in the freezer.

But if you want to maintain the texture of your zuc, then you need to blanch it before freezing it. Blanching, or dipping your zuc in boiling water, kills the enzymes responsible for decomposition. If you do this before freezing them, then the flavor and texture of the veggie will be better preserved.

Check out our article on freezing zucchini to see the steps needed for proper freezing and thawing of marrow.

26 Vegan & Vegetarian Recipes for Overgrown Zucchini

Whether you have a ton of frozen marrow in the deep freeze or a bunch of zucchini clubs sitting on the counter, you are going to need some ideas for using up your stock. Here are 26 of our favorite vegetarian and vegan recipes that taste great with immature or overgrown zucchini.

Savory Zucchini Recipes

Savory zucchini recipes often work well with overgrown zucchinis. Those that require larger than average zucchinis for stuffing or for turning into tasty zucchini noodles or rings work especially well for using up marrow. Their mild flavor and drier flesh can complement the zesty sauces and bold flavors in many dishes. These guys can easily be oven baked at 425 degrees for 18 min. Just monitor for an achieved golden brown color. Mix in pepper, salt, basil, tomatoes and onions and bake away!

Vegan Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Chickpeas
Vegan Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Chickpeas

Here are some of our favorite savory recipes for using up large zucchini.

Zucchini Breads, Muffins, and Sweets

Baked goods are the perfect place to hide overgrown zucchini for the same reason they work to hide normal zucchini: the texture and taste of the vegetable are easily masked by the other ingredients. 

In fact, overgrown zucchinis tend to work better for muffins and breads because they have less moisture and less flavor, which means less work on your part to squeeze the water out of them and an even more decadent tasting treat when you are done.

1-Bowl Vegan Zucchini Bread | Photo courtesy of Nora Cooks

Here are some of our favorite sweets and breads for hiding large zucchini in.

Zucchini Soup Recipes

Soups may seem like an obvious place to use large zucchini since the broth and other ingredients help hide the tougher texture and milder flavor of mature marrow. But the thick skins on these larger zucchinis can be problematic, even after they have been cooked for a long period.

One way around this is to use your thick-skinned marrows in soups that get blended before serving. This process helps release more of the flavor of the zucchini while pulverizing the unpleasant texture so you won’t even notice it. 

Roasted Courgette Soup | Photo courtesy of The Veg Space

Here are two blended soup recipes that work perfectly for large zucchinis.