Whether you buy them at the supermarket or grow them in your own garden, summertime's glut of fresh zucchini represents an embarrassment of riches. With the very best of intentions, it's altogether too easy to load your refrigerator with more of the versatile squash than you can quickly use.Health benefits of cucurbitacins can attract many to squashes with recipes including zucchini bread offering an escape from the traditionally bitter taste.

When buying zucchini from the grocery store, look for a firm squash with a shiny or glossy skin, avoid a mushy zucchini plant with soft spots. The softer the zucchini squash, the more likely it is to be bad. Their useful storage life is typically a week or less, so it's important to understand and recognize signs of spoilage in zucchini.

Causes of a zucchini going bad prematurely include uneven watering, exposure to too much nitrogen, a lack of calcium, or lack of pollination.

Recognizing Spoiled Zucchini

Lift the plastic bag or airtight container of squash from your refrigerator and hold it up so you can see the zucchini through the bag. If they're visibly turning pulpy at the bottom or are mired in a white, milky-looking liquid, don't even bother opening the bag. They're spoiled and should be discarded or composted.If any blossom-end rot or other moldy rotten spots are seen, discard and check other nearby veggies to avoid food poisoning.

Open the bag if the zucchini are not grossly spoiled. Lift out one of the squash. Examine it for obvious damage such as large soft or bruised spots. If you see any, use a paring knife to cut away the spoiled area. If the bruised spot is shallow, the remainder of the squash is usually still usable.

Examine the Inside and Outside

Slice the zucchini lengthwise if the spoiled area extends deeply into the squash. Examine the interior for streaks of discoloration or soft, watery-looking areas. If the damaged sections are localized, cut them away and use the rest. Alternatively, if they run though much of the squash's length, discard the zucchini.

Squeeze the zucchini gently if it has no visible damage or spoilage. If it's slightly rubbery, it is still sound but is losing its freshness. Do not serve it raw. Instead, cook it in soups, stews or fritters, or shred it for use in baked goods. Alternatively, if it's still plump, firm and rigid, with skin that is still glossy rather than matte, it's in excellent condition and can be used in any of your favorite preparations.

Shelf Life and Other Tips

Zucchini and other summer squash can be kept for three to five days at room temperature without ill effect, or refrigerated for up to a week. Don't wash the squash until you plan to cook them. Washing the squash shortens their storage life dramatically. Store zucchini in a crisper drawer and freezer bag in a dry place to make the zucchini last or opt to freeze zucchini. Zucchini goes bad quickly in warm, moist environments, frozen zucchini dried with a paper towel may be the best option to ensure good zucchini over time. If possible, maintain the whole zucchini as long as possible, sliced zucchini will go bad quicker as the inner flesh of the zucchini fruit has been exposed. Similar tips can be used for cucumbers, butternut squash, winter squash, and other produce with edible skin. Cooked zucchini may require different storage methods due to exposure to boiling water or other heat.