Thursday, July 29, 2010

Growing Zucchini

Our friends and neighbours are no longer answering our calls or letting us near their back door.  Apparently, they've had enough of our generous zucchini donations!

We have three zucchini plants in our garden and we get about three nice zucchinis a day - way more than our family of four can consume.  We eat it raw with dip, pan fried with butter, grilled with olive oil, in salads, in grilled veggie mixes and, our all-time favourite, in chocolate zucchini loaf.  Yum!

For eating purposes, we prefer our zucchini young and tender.  But, every year, we like to let one or two zucchinis grow as big as they can get.  Usually, we harvest the big guys at the end of August, dress them up, give them names and keep them as pets for a little while - good times at the Stewart house!

We have been fortunate that our zucchinis grow with little or no effort, but once in a while, we've noticed that we've had baby zucchinis wither away on the vine.  After similar comments from friends, we decided it was time to investigate this zucchini mystery.

Turns out it's not such a big mystery after all.  Having fruit "abort" happens quite often.  Here's my cole notes on zucchini fruit production to help explain this phenomenon.

Zucchini plants have two types of flowers - male flowers and female flowers.

  • Male flowers are smaller and last longer.  They are attached directly to the stem. The male flower has one stamen that includes the  anthers which carry the pollen.
  • Female flowers are bigger and are attached to an "emergent zucchini" (we call them baby zucchinis, scientists call them ovaries).  The female flowers have the pistil which contain the stigma (the four or five sticky bulby things).  The pollen has to reach the stigma for the baby zucchinis to grow.
  • The ovaries wither up or rot on the plant if  adequate pollination does not occur.  Pollination is affected by temperature, moisture, and the presence of pollinators (aka bees).  If any of those are out of whack, you'll find shrivelled up zucchini (or squash of any kind).  
If you still don't get zucchini - call us, we'd be glad to share some of ours.


takaeko said...

I'm very happy to see you enjoy summer harvest.
We suffer hot summer (up to 98.6F!) in Japan and I must water our vegetables every day.But some fruits and flowers in my garden can heel my fatigue.

Dandee said...

This suggestion totally saved my zucchini and spaghetti squash plants! Thanks SO much for the great tip!

Getty Stewart said...

Hi Dandee,
Glad our tip helped you out. We had fun learning about polinating squash.

WolfSong said...

'Kay, I know this is an older post, but, I have to share this...if you and your family like marmalades, the Bernardin book of Complete Home Preserving has a recipe for zucchini marmalade that is absolutely terrific! In fact I grow zukes just so I can make it.

If you are interested, I'll pop the recipe up on my blog, or you can get the book from the Wpg Public Library.