Growing Cocozelle Zucchini In My Backyard Aquaponics System

Me holding 2 cocozelle zucchinis. Living in Hawaii & things to do in Hawaii.

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My brother Michael gifted my Mom and I with some heirloom vegetable seeds and I was eager to see if I could grow some larger vegetables in my aquaponics system here in Hawaii. I tried some butter squash in my front yard aquaponics system, but this time decided to plant these cocozelle zucchini seeds from Rebel Gardens in my backyard aquaponics system. My backyard setup has plenty of fish (and plenty of fish poop), which provides the fast-growing zucchini with enough nutrients.

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About cocozelle zucchini

According to the internet, cocozelle zucchini is an Italian variety that has a slightly nutty flavor (which I can attest to) and is flavorful. Most notable about the cocozelle zucchini are its vibrant light green stripes that run along the length of the body. It makes for a very attractive fruit and I’ve already gotten a lot of comments from visiting friends and family who have seen the ready-to-pick cocozelle zucchinis in my system.

Cocozelle zucchini seeds from Rebel Gardens.
My cocozelle zucchini seeds came from Rebel Gardens – a Christmas seed gift set from my brother, Michael.

From seed to the first fruit took about 3.5 weeks. Once the seed had sprouted and showed its first true leaves, the plant really began to grow at high speed and you could see the small fruit almost immediately growing out of the main stem.

The plant itself is about 5 to 6 feet across so it does take up a lot of real estate from my IBC aquaponics grow bed. I’m considering to start growing these larger fruit vegetables in my dutch bucket system so they’ll have enough space to spread out and will only take up one-bucket-worth of space.

Cocozelle zucchini flowers.
Cocozelle zucchini flowers are a bright orangey-yellow that immediately attracts small flies.

Despite being planted quite close to the edge of the grow bed, the plant has stretched out and covered about 80% of the available space. It’s nearly impossible to grow anything else under the leaves and I worry about the overload of fish waste right after I pull the plant out.

In the meantime, I’ve planted a lemon cucumber in the opposite corner, which I can guide out of the grow bed as it gets larger. The plant should get large enough to suck up plenty of fish waste and I’ll start planting more leafy vegetables again in the new open space.

Cocozelle zucchini plant takes up most of the space in my aquaponics sytem.
From the back of IBC aquaponics system, you can see that the cocozelle zucchini plant takes up most of the space available in the grow bed. The lemon cucumber plant is growing in the opposite corner.

Harvesting cocozelle zucchini

Once you see the zucchini fruit, they grow incredibly fast to full size. I almost harvested my first zucchini too late as some of the seeds were just beginning to form and harden. Fortunately, we used it right away and everything was still soft and edible. You’ll want to touch your zucchinis on a daily basis to check for rot.

This particular plant was growing through our rainy season in March and the extra rain kept the area near the zucchinis moist and prone to rot. The zucchini should be hard and firm when you squeeze. If you feel any softness, pick it right away and cut off the bad parts. Even small zucchini can be prepared and eaten the same way.

All zucchini plants that I know of have many more male flowers (fruitless flowers) than female flowers and you can actually cut these and eat them. The blossoms are very soft and will quickly wilt, soften, and rot within the day so if you plan on harvesting them, do it in the early morning right after they’ve opened.

So far I’ve been able to harvest at least one zucchini every 2 to 3 days, but several of the male blossoms bloom every single day (about 3 to 5). Just be sure to leave a couple of male flowers as is so that pollination occurs. I myself haven’t tried it yet with this plant (we literally have too many vegetables to eat), but it would be something fun for a party in the future.

White mildew

Like a lot of plants in Hawaii, my zucchini leaves did suffer from white mildew, which showed up first on the older and lower leaves first. At first, the zucchini plant grows so fast that the white mildew isn’t too much of a problem. But once you get it, it spreads quickly to the other leaves.

Eating cocozelle zucchini

My family’s consensus after eating this cocozelle zucchini is two thumbs up. The insides are soft and tender and you only have to cook it for a short time. My favorite so far has been breading and deep-frying it, but Mom has included it in her stir-fried dishes and my brother Michael even made a tasty creamy white pasta with zucchini last week. With so much zucchini coming out almost on a daily basis, we’ve even sliced these up and cooked it yakiniku-style. Dip it in shoyu and the buttery zucchini flavor really comes out.

Cocozelle zucchini slices.
My first cocozelle zucchini being sliced up for dinner.

Will I grow more cocozelle zucchini?

Definitely, yes. But instead of right in the aquaponics grow bed, I plan to grow these in a dutch bucket system so that they don’t take up too much space. While we could grow these in the garden, the main reason why we won’t is that the slugs and snails love to eat up the zucchini. The aquaponics system keeps this plant off the ground, which means I don’t have to worry about anything chewing up the zucchini during the night.

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