Like humans, all fruits and vegetables are unique. You won’t find a bag of apples or a carton of strawberries where every single piece of fruit looks the same. However, if you’ve been growing what you’d call “deformed” zucchinis, you may be wondering if you can still use them in the kitchen.
You can still eat deformed zucchini if it’s just the shape that is off. However, if you notice any mold, rotting, or an off-texture, this can be a sign something is wrong with your crop. The zucchini may taste bitter or have gone wrong.
Below, we will develop a working definition for the word “deformed” and let you know when you should and shouldn’t be eating a zucchini. Then, we will talk about how zucchini becomes deformed and strategies to prevent it.
Are Oddly Shaped Zucchini Okay To Eat?
Though the answer to our first question, “can you still eat deformed zucchini’s from your garden” is a little more complicated, eating zucchini that’s oddly shaped is a little more straightforward.
Oddly shaped zucchini are usually okay to eat. An oddly-shaped zucchini may indicate something went amiss during the pollination process, or that you let your zucchini grow for too much or too little time.
However, a “deformed” zucchini means something different to everyone. Deformed might mean something different to all of us. What is the official meaning of “deformed?”
The actual definition of deformed is “not having the normal or natural shape or form; misshapen.”
When I think of “deformed” as it pertains to fruit and vegetables, I imagine a crop that takes on a less-than-typical shape for its species of fruit or vegetable. If your zucchini is the right size, has the right texture, and the right color but just has an odd shape, it’s probably okay to eat.
However, some may consider deformed anything out of the ordinary for a fruit or vegetable. Maybe it means the color or texture (meaning the waxiness of the skin) is off.
If this is the case, you can still consume the zucchini, but it’ll probably not taste all that good. A zucchini with the wrong texture indicates it’s not time to harvest yet, and harvesting too early means a bitter zucchini.
Bumps, lumps, or strange colors might mean something a little more serious is going on. Bumpiness on a zucchini might be a sign of the mosaic virus, which is common in zucchini, cucumbers, and squash.
You can still eat fruits and veggies who have succumbed to mosaic.
If your definition of deformed includes any mushy-ness or moldiness, then you should give your plant a complete stop and assess. Moldy or squishy fruits or vegetables mean something has gone wrong, and you don’t want to eat it. A squishy fruit has gone wrong, and a moldy fruit has gone so bad that it’s producing spores.
You definitely should not eat fruit with mold or feels squishy when it shouldn’t.
Oddly Shaped Zucchini
You might notice any oddly shaped fruits and veggies on the discount rack at your local grocery store or in bags for sale, which is known as the “ugly” discount.
These fruits and veggies have not been discounted because they’re dangerous to eat but because humans tend to lean towards the more aesthetically pleasing ingredients. Why would someone buy a misformed squash when there’s a ton of typically shaped squash around?
Some businesses thrive on selling oddly shaped fruits and vegetables. This video shows one of such businesses, Imperfect Foods:
Just remember that all fruits and vegetables grow differently. Not all apples will be shaped the same, not all of your green beans will be the same size or shade, and not all zucchinis will look the same. Especially when you’re just letting zucchini grow and picking them when you feel right, you may find some different shapes.
This video shows a large, oddly shaped zucchini one gardener found:
So if it’s the shape you’re worried about, but everything else seems fine, don’t worry. You can still enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Bottom Line: Check for Other Indicators Before Eating
Deformed zucchini, or zucchini with a strange shape, are usually safe to eat. Zucchini with bumps, lumps, or colors are also okay to eat.
If your zucchini is moldy, squishy, or the wrong color, this may be a sign something else is up. Instead of eating this zucchini, you may consider throwing it out or composting it if there isn’t any mold or virus present.
Why Are My Zucchini Deformed?
If you’ve been getting deformed zucchini over and over again, you may be wondering if you’re doing something wrong. Again, the definition of deformed is essential here. Oddly shaped zucchini are standard, but mushy, moldy, or strangely texture zucchini is another problem.
Zucchini may be deformed if there are problems with the sunlight, soil nutrients, or sunlight the zucchini is receiving. Pests in the garden soil may have stunted the growth of the zucchini and caused it to become deformed.
Strangely shaped zucchini might also indicate pollination problems.
However, a zucchini that’s just a little strangely shaped isn’t necessarily a problem and doesn’t indicate something wrong with your soil or your gardening techniques. As long as the texture, color, and size seem to be expected, then you may just have an oddly shaped zucchini.
Causes of a Deformed Zucchini
We have named a few reasons why your zucchini may be deformed, mushy, moldy, or weirdly textured throughout this article.
To summarize, your zucchini may be deformed because of:
- Natural growth patterns
- Soil problems
Below, we’ll detail what each means and how to fix them.
Did you know that your zucchini plant is both male and female?
Zucchini grows from a flowering plant. If the female flower is open and ready to be pollinated, but the male flowers haven’t opened or flowered, the male flower can’t pollinate the female flower.
This video shows you the differences between a male and female flower:
A male flower has a stamen in the middle. They also don’t grow fruit from their stem.
A female flower has a stigma inside, and the zucchini will grow directly from its stem. The female stigma needs to be pollinated by the male stamen for the zucchini to grow. A lack of pollination can deform the fruit and cause the growth to become stunted, and the zucchini shrivel.
You can fix this by manually pollinating your flowers or finding a long-term pollinator solution.
Remember that bugs in the garden are a good thing and should be encouraged, as long as they’re pollinators and not eaters. Butterflies, bees, and moths are so helpful to pollination. You can plant a butterfly mix or entice the bees with some flowers.
If you’re wondering whether zucchini plants can have too many flowers, you can find some more in-depth information in this article.
Above, we mentioned the mosaic virus making zucchini bumpy or lumpy. The virus can also make zucchini appear discolored or misshapen. It’s called the “mosaic” virus because it makes the surface of your zucchini appear to be a beautiful mosaic of various shades.
The virus is spread by aphids, which are tiny bugs in your soil. Aphids are harmful to the soil, bad for crops, and damage more than just this one virus.
You can get rid of aphids by:
- Water with cold water instead of room temperature, just for a moment to get the aphids off your plant.
- Adding or encouraging other bugs to your soil, such as ladybugs, who eat aphids.
- Using natural aphid deterrents like neem oil or soap.
- Dust your plants with flour to constipate the aphids.
To prevent aphids from ever getting in your soil, make sure to encourage populations of beneficial bugs and pollinators in your garden. Additionally, you can attempt the companion planting method, which pairs aphid repelling plants with the crops aphids love.
Common aphid repelling plants are garlic, catnip, and broccoli. Remember, however, that if you plant catnip with your zucchini plants, you might have every cat in the neighborhood coming to your garden for their daily “high.”
Moldy vegetables are usually an indicator of soil issues, particularly overwatering.
You should check your watering routines as soon as you see mold becoming an issue, as water is the most likely cause.
However, if you’ve noticed a few symptoms in your zucchini plant, it’s worth double-checking all of your basics. You need to ensure your zucchini is getting proper sunlight, has the proper pH, and isn’t getting overwatered.
If a lot of water is being left on the surface of your zucchini and plant flowers without the proper sunlight to dry, then they’ll become moldy.
pH is an indicator of what nutrients are available to your plant, so it’s possible that weird shapes or colors can be caused by a lack or excess of one or more nutrients. You can test your soil pH with a moisture meter or a test kit.
A moisture meter will also often have a pH and sunlight setting, and some of the fancier ones can tell you about soil humidity.
You can also do a soil test, which will give you an indicator of all of the above. It will tell you if you’re lacking nutrients, the pH is off, there’s too much or too little moisture, and how much sunlight your plants tend to get.
Your zucchini may still be okay to eat, depending on your definition of deformed.
All fruits and vegetables grow in different shapes and sizes, and entire businesses sell the “odd” fruit out. However, if you notice something is wrong with the texture of your zucchini, or you notice any mold or squishiness, your zucchini has likely gone bad. You shouldn’t eat zucchini if it is rotting.
Additionally, zucchini can appear deformed before they’re ready to harvest. Zucchini isn’t poisonous if you pick it too early, but it will taste bitter.