SpadeRunner

Growing zucchini ‘Costa Romanesque’

zucchini 'costa romanesque'

Monster stealth zucchini, the first in the season

You’ve got to love growing zucchini as a home garden vegetable. They are quick, easy and delicious. This year I’m growing the ‘Costa Romanesque’ cultivar. I have two plants that I started early, and they have raced ahead in the warmer Spring weather. I have been watching them closely to check whether there are both male and female flowers, so was astonished to find this huge first zucchini; either I overlooked it or it grew tremendously overnight.

Growing zucchini

Growing zucchini plants

The first two zucchini plants of the season

Two things stand out about growing zucchini; they are very quick to grow when conditions are right, and they need a lot of room.

I started these zucchini in seed pots in late Winter in the greenhouse, and planted them out in early Spring. In a subtropical garden it pays to get them in early to take advantage of our warm dry Spring, before any relentlessly wet weather starts. After a couple of weeks when they were probably putting down roots, they took off and have since grown at an astonishing rate. Those huge leaves really power the plant along in sunny weather.

Zucchini flowers; male and female

Zucchini female flower

Female flowers have rudimentary fruit. Pictured front to back, are a female bud, a flower and a newly spent flower

zucchini flower male

Male flowers attach directly to a stem (old female flower directly underneath).

Zucchini have flowers that are either male or female, on the same plant. They tend to produce an imbalance of sexes early in the season. Mine were producing only female flowers, which weren’t going to develop further without males to fertilise them.

You can tell female flowers because they have the rudimentary zucchini at the back of the flower. The males just have a stem that runs straight to the back of the flower.

If your patch is producing only male or female flowers they will just wilt and fall off when they close, so you may as well pick them as a vegetable. They tend to only flower for one day.

Some people say you should only use female flowers, and cut out the centre, but the whole flowers of both kinds taste great to us. You do get the bonus of the little zucchini in the females.

Depending on the reliability of your pollinators, you can manually pollinate by picking the centre pollen-laden anther column of the male flowers and dusting it on the centre of the females.

Zucchini cultivars

zucchini 'Costa Romanesque'

Smaller zucchini ‘Costa Romanesque’

It’s worth shopping through seed catalogues to find a zucchini cultivar that suits your needs and garden.

Last season I grew ‘Ronde de Nice‘, a small round zucchini with excellent flavour. As we are fully into zucchini pasta, this season I bought ‘Costa Romanesque’ seeds as they produce a long zucchini that is suitable for the spiral cutter.

The latest two have been smaller, but they are still a big zucchini, right from flower drop. One thing seems sure; they will be providing plenty of fruit for the next while.