Zucchini is delicious, only 20 calories per cup and loaded with tons of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, Vitamin B and riboflavin. You may have been spoiled with bounty from your neighbor’s garden a few months ago, but now that it’s a bit later in the season, it's important to know what to look for when selecting a zucchini at the grocery store. And though you may think of it as more of a summertime food, zucchini is the perfect addition to many holiday recipes!
How to choose ripe zucchini
- Check the size: Look for a zucchini that is anywhere from 6–8 inches in length. This size ensures a tender and juicy fruit. Anything longer could be overripe and bitter.
- Pay attention to the color: A ripe zucchini will be uniformly green in color. The darker the zucchini, the deeper the flavor and the more tender it will be. If your zucchini is grayish, the flesh inside will typically be underripe, milder tasting and firmer. But don't fret if you bring home a gray zucchini—they actually work well in soup recipes.
- Look at the surface: Your zucchini should have glossy skin. If the skin looks dull, the zucchini is more than likely overripe and may contain big seeds and stringy, dry flesh.
- Feel: Hold the zucchini in your hands. It should feel pretty firm and be slightly more flexible than a cucumber. You will also notice tiny bristly hairs all over the flesh of super fresh zucchinis. Toss the zucchini back if it’s soft or overly flexible—this means it's overripe.
- Check for a stem: Ripe zucchinis will have a slight stem on the end. Put the fruit back if you notice any damage on the stem-end. Zucchinis must be carefully cut away from the plant to prevent damage—if you notice any exposed flesh or other damage on the stem-end, the fruit was more than likely pulled off.
How to store
Fresh zucchini can be stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to a week. Do not wash your zucchini before you store it—this will speed up the decaying process and make your zucchini go bad faster. If you want to freeze your zucchini, cut it into 1/2-inch slices and blanch it in boiling water for 3 minutes. Cool and drain the zucchini before packaging the slices in a freezer-safe container. They will last in the freezer for about a year!
Need an even more convenient freezer method? Grate your zucchini so it will always be on hand for baking recipes. Just steam the grated zucchini in 2 inches of water for 2 minutes before cooling and packaging it in the liquid. Then just pop it in the freezer! Don't forget to thaw and drain the zucchini before you bake with it.
How to use
Sweet: For added moisture and nutrition in desserts, add grated zucchini to your favorite sweet bread recipe, mix grated zucchini into your brownie batter, or use chopped zucchini in place of the apples in your grandma's cobbler recipe.
Savory: For a more savory dish, slice your zucchini, coat it in Parmesan cheese, and bake it to make zucchini chips. You can also dice zucchini and toss it into a pot of chili. Or add sliced zucchini to your favorite casserole.