No Teenie Zucchini

By Ray Novitske, Fairfax Master Gardener

Cucurbits

Various cucurbits & squash

I left for a weekend vacation one summer and came back to find zucchini squash the size of baseball bats in my garden. Yes, zucchini, Cucurbita pepo var. ‘cylindrica’) is a fast growing member of the cucurbit family of vegetables that grow on vining plants with edible yellow flowers. Cucurbits include melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Zucchini, along with yellow squash, is classified as a summer squash. It is harvested in summer and is eaten before the seeds are fully developed and hardened. Winter squash consists of butternut, acorn squash, and pumpkins that are harvested in fall or winter and have thicker skins or rinds to permit winter storage.

Squash originated in North and South American and was cultivated for food throughout both continents by Native Americans. Our current zucchini and summer squash are relatively new introductions. Zucchini was developed in Italy from seeds brought back from early European explorers like Christopher Columbus. The term zucchini comes from the Italian word zucca — pumpkin or squash — and zucchino — a small squash.

zucchini flower

Female flower at end of zucchini

Zucchini loves warm temperatures and fertile soil so fertilizing on a regular basis is recommended. It does not like cold, so planting early in the season before the soil warms up is detrimental. Like all melons and squash, it needs water on a regular basis. Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends ‘Goldrus’, a yellow zucchini, and ‘Puma’, a F1 hybrid green zucchini for Virginia gardeners. This gardener has had great success with ‘Black Beauty’ over the years.

Like other members of its family, zucchini produces both male and female flowe