Courgettes can be a wonderful crop to grow at home in your garden.
They are relatively easy to grow and, as you will soon find out if you grow them where you live, they can provide a bountiful harvest.
Imagery and video featured in this article was commissioned by Horticulture.co.uk in collaboration with Organic Gardener Emily Cupit.
Here is the basic information that you need to know about harvesting courgettes from your garden:
- Harvest courgettes between June and October.
- Pick regularly to encourage further fruits to form.
- Pick courgettes when they are smaller (around 10-12.5cm long) for the best flavour.
- Simply cut through the stem to separate the fruit from the plant.
- Don’t forget about secondary yields – courgette flowers and leaves are also edible.
Homegrown courgettes can be delicious, but there is one note of caution to beware of.
On rare occasions, cross-pollination can occur and fruits can become toxic. [source]
So only ever harvest and eat courgettes if you have grown them from certified seeds, or your own seed if you are certain that cross-pollination has not occurred.
If courgettes have any note of bitterness at all – don’t eat them.
|Equipment Required||Secateurs or gardening knife|
|When To Harvest||June – October|
When To Harvest Courgettes
Courgettes can be ready to harvest from as early as late June, and can continue to produce fruits until the autumn, often right up until the first frosts.
Typically, you will be able to harvest the first fruits around 6-8 weeks after planting.
Courgette fruits form on female flowers, after these are pollinated and pollen transferred from the male flowers.
Male flowers typically form first and you may well see several male flowers before the first female flowers appear.
The first harvest that you might obtain from a courgette plant will not necessarily be an actual courgette.
Once the female flowers have begun to form fruit, you might decide to harvest excess male flowers, since these are a secondary edible yield from the plant.
These are often stuffed and eaten.
You will typically harvest the first fruit when these grow to around 10-12cm long.
While the fruits will continue to grow after this, the taste of these younger, smaller fruit is typically much better, and the courgettes will seem watery and often lack flavour when they get too much larger.
You should try to keep on top of the harvesting, and make sure you pick fruits when they reach around this size, because doing so will help make sure that the plant keeps going, and further fruits are produced.
Another thing to note is that throughout the growing season, it can be beneficial to remove the odd leaf here or there to open up the plant and let sunlight into the fruits to help them mature.
Removing the odd leaf can also help ensure good airflow around the plants and reduce the chances of a problem like powdery mildew taking hold.
The good news is that these leaves are another additional harvest.
While leaves can get too tough and a bit too bitter when they are more mature, smaller and more tender courgette leaves can be useful as a cooked green vegetable.
Take the odd male flower and the odd leaf here and there, and keep picking the fruit while they are quite young, and your courgette plant should keep producing for several months.
How To Harvest Courgettes
To harvest courgettes, simply reach down into the plant, pull the leaves gently aside so you can see what you are doing and find the fruit.
Then just cut these through the stem to sever them from the plant with a clean, sharp pair of secateurs or a gardening knife.
If you can, it is best to harvest early in the day when the water content is highest and the fruits are at their juiciest.
Though courgettes won’t keep very long, so try to make sure that you will be ready to use or process them as soon as possible after you have harvested.
Courgette flowers will certainly need to be used on the day you harvest them.
Storing & Using Courgettes
Courgettes that are young, tender and tasty won’t last long once harvested.
You should keep them for up to an absolute maximum of 1 week at 10°C. and a high humidity of 90-95%.
However you should usually aim to use them on the same day, or within a few days at most.
It is best not to keep courgettes in the fridge as they are sensitive to cold and can go mushy.
Instead, if you cannot use your courgettes right away, it is best to freeze them – either raw or cooked.
Another option is to dry courgettes, though this can be tricky if you don’t have an electric dehydrator.
You can also pickle your courgettes, or use them in a wide range of other preserves which can be canned for storage.
When canned using a trusted recipe, courgettes can be kept for much longer periods – months and even a year or so.
Even if working out what to do with a glut of courgettes can sometimes be a challenge, by looking into preserving, you can make sure that none of your harvest goes to waste.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.