Giant zucchini season has begun! Every year, I start to receive photos of giant zucchinis, as long as a baseball bat and four times as thick. The owners always seem very proud of their exploit and want to know if their fruit is a world-record holder.
I don’t like to burst the bubble of such enthusiastic gardeners, but … it’s perfectly normal that a zucchini left growing too long on the plant would become huge.
The zucchini (Cucurbita pepo), called courgette in the United Kingdom, is considered a “summer squash,” that is, a squash designed to be harvested before it reaches maturity, like pattypan squash, rather than when it reaches its full size, like a “winter squash” (pumpkins, Hubbard squash and their ilk). Its fruits should be picked when still very young and tender, at no more than 8 inches (20 cm) in length, while the skin is still thin and the seeds are only tiny dots. If allowed to mature further, its taste becomes mealy, the seeds develop and have to be removed before serving, and the skin hardens and becomes essentially inedible.
Also, if you make a habit of checking your zucchini plant every two or three days and picking the fruits when they reach the appropriate size, this constant harvesting stimulates the plant to continue to produce more fruit. When you leave a fruit to mature, the plant stops producing, reducing your harvest by three quarters or more.
The Real World-Record Holder
Besides, even if you are very proud of your 3-foot (90 cm) or even 4-foot (120 cm) zucchini, it’s still a far cry from being from the longest in the world. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, that record belongs to a zucchini grown by John (Giovanni) Scozzafavain his garden in Niagara Falls, Ontario in 2014. His zucchini measured a whopping 8 ft 3.3 inches long (2.52 m), more than 2 baseball bats in length! Scozzafava claims to have given his zucchini no special treatment other, that is, than watering.