Important tips: When not to eat zucchinis

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Whether in your garden or on a small scale on the balcony, self-sufficiency and growing your fruit, vegetables, and herbs are becoming increasingly popular in Austria. If you have green fingers for growing zucchinis, you will be rewarded with numerous, huge green zucchinis. But a bitter substance typical of the plant can be dangerous if you don’t buy zucchinis from the supermarket.

Toxic, bitter substances
You should be careful when eating home-grown zucchinis because of the bitter substance called cucurbitacins. This group of substances is mainly found in zucchinis and other pumpkin plants. At least, this is the case with wild-growing plants. This is why pumpkins, for example, first had to be bred so that the bitter substances in the crop plants no longer threatened us humans. Today, we can find such cultivated zucchinis and pumpkins in supermarkets or garden centers as certified seeds. However, self-cultivators, in particular, should be careful, as various influences can activate the bitter substances.

Avoid backcrossing and mutations
A mutated zucchini sounds scary initially, but this is natural when growing naturally and at home. It becomes dangerous when these backcrosses reactivate cucurbitacins. Zucchinis are particularly susceptible to this. For example, if one zucchini crosses with another or a pumpkin plant, the plants contain more bitter substances. It is therefore advisable to rely only on certified seeds and not grow new zucchinis alone. It is also better not to plant zucchinis next to ornamental pumpkins or other pumpkin plants to avoid unwanted mutations.
Heat causes stress
High temperatures, as we have often had this summer, can cause vegetable stress. This, in turn, promotes the formation of cucurbitacins. For this reason, you can start harvesting zucchinis as early as July, with harvesting possible until October. The vegetables should then be stored in a cool, dark place. They can then be stored for around one to two weeks.

Recognize bitter substances
If you still want to ensure the zucchini is not poisonous after taking the above precautions, you should pay attention to the taste. Zucchinis naturally have a neutral to slightly sweet taste. So if the vegetable tastes bitter, you should not eat it. Baking, frying, or boiling is also unsuitable for neutralizing poisonous substances. The following symptoms can guide anyone who suspects possible poisoning: As the substances attack the gastrointestinal tract, you will usually feel nauseous or have to vomit. This is a protective mechanism of the body. Other symptoms may include stomach cramps or diarrhea. Normally, people with a healthy immune system do not experience severe symptoms. However, people of advanced age or with pre-existing conditions should consult a doctor if they have consumed a lot of bitter zucchini.

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