Giant zucchini are an annual trope of a North American summer. They’re the white elephants of July through September. Which begs the question: are they ever too big to use?
How To Handle XXL Zucchini
If you would feel confident using a zucchini for hand-to-hand combat, then it’s too big to eat. Cooking with it won’t make you sick or anything, but if it’s thicker than Popeye’s forearm and sturdy enough to stand in for Bamm-Bamm’s club, it’ll be more hassle than it’s worth.
Fortunately, most of the time really big zucchini are totally fine to cook with. (Unless it’s the largest one in the world.) I tend to slice their sides off, leaving behind an elongated rectangle of core that’s often pulpy or spongy. That part is mealy and not good to use. Also look out for seeds that are quite developed, as they can be tough and fibrous—another reason it’s smart to discard the core.
Because their skins can be tougher, you’re best off using big zucchini in recipes where it’s shredded or otherwise physically transformed.
How Can You Use Up Giant Zucchini?
When zucchini is a bit more mature than the lil’ guys you find at the supermarket, it’s best suited for applications where it’s either shredded or cooked a tad longer.
- Freeze it. Frozen zucchini, once thawed, excels in recipes where you’d want its texture a bit softened: ratatouille, minestrone, or veggie enchiladas. Dicing and blanching it before freezing is key.
- Spiralize it. Blow the dust off your spiralizer and make zoodles. They may be a little wonky-shaped because of discarding the zucchini’s center, but they’ll still get the job done.
- Grate it. Obvious, yes, but there are more options than yet another loaf of zucchini bread or muffins. Make zucchini butter, throw it in pasta, add it to turkey burgers, or fry up some fritters.
- Pickle it. You can pickle zucchini just as you would cucumbers. The texture is pleasantly heartier, but the flavor is remarkably similar.
- Exploit it. Horticultural oddities can be quite the conversation piece. Leave it on your counter for a while as summer analog to the decorate gourds of late fall, emerging from an implied horn of plenty.
How Do Zucchini Get So Big in the First Place?
A giant zucchini was just left on the vine a little longer than optimal. When it’s really hot, the days are long, and a garden is totally kickin’ it, the growth spurt from six inches to two feet can happen in less time than you’d think. (As a brown-thumbed gardener who watched over her crop with the same doomed naiveté as a kid hopefully hydrating a packet of Sea Monkeys, I’ve never had this problem.) Anyhoo, a daily patrol of the garden rows will prevent this.
It’s Okay to Pitch Giant Zucchini
There are only so many hours in a day. Throw it away, chuck it in the compost, bury it in the yard. Whatever works for you. Any farmer will tell you that overabundance is the collateral damage of gardening success. God’s not keeping a tally on this one, and plants don’t have human feelings. Their job is to get big enough to make more plants, and a mega zucchini made it closer to that goal than the succulent young ones preferable for culinary use.