When to pick squash blossoms?

How to Cook with Squash Blossoms

As an urban farmer, one of the most frequent questions I get in summer is about when and how to harvest squash blossoms. These brilliant tangerine-colored flowers are alluring, and farmers markets often sell them at a premium price. They can be cooked in broths, sauteed, or more commonly stuffed and dipped in light batters and fried. Everyone loves fried squash blossoms!

What is a Squash Blossom?

Summer squash plants (all members of the Cucurbitaceae family, actually — cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, etc) send out both male and female squash blossoms. Through pollination, the squash fruits are created – male blossoms lend their pollen to the female blossoms, and those female blossoms turn into the fruit of the plant. A plant will create more male blossoms than are necessary for pollination, and some of these may be harvested and eaten. (If you over-harvest the male blossoms, you will not have any fruit to harvest!)

Image zoom Zucchinis with blossoms

How to Harvest Blossoms

Identifying male versus female blossoms is reasonably simple. Male flowers have stamens—a long, slender “stalk” that runs up the center of the bloom and is tipped with a thick carpet of pollen. Male blossoms grow on long, thin stems from the base of the squash plant—typically about six or seven inches in length.

By contrast, female blossoms sit low to the plant and do not have a stamen. To harvest, cut the male blossoms at the base of their stems, as close to the plant as possible. You can use the stem in your cooking or trim it down to a few inches. (You may also harvest female blossoms if you are trying to reduce the fruit of the plant or it’s early in the season and you wish for the plant to fully establish itself before fruiting.)

Image zoom Male squash blossoms grow on stamens

Storing Squash Blossoms

Use harvested squash blossoms right away, as they wilt quickly. If you need to store them for a short time, line a storage container with a linen cloth or paper towel and mist it until just damp. Lay out the flowers in single layers, leaving space between the blossoms, and stack them between layers of moistened towel. Store in the fridge for up to two days.

Cooking with Squash Blossoms

To prepare squash blossoms for cooking, I like to remove the stamen, particularly if the anther is thick, as it can taste quite bitter. (The anther is the tip of the stamen and contains the pollen.) To do this, use a small paring knife and delicately open the blossom to remove the stamen at its base or as close to the base as possible. Cook squash blossoms by dipping them into a light egg batter and frying, briefly, in a shallow pool of oil. Make sure the oil is hot, as they cook quickly and you need only let the batter brown before serving. For more crunch, roll them in bread crumbs (after dipping them into the batter) before frying.

  • Crispy Zucchini or Pumpkin Blossoms

Of course, these blossoms can be stuffed before frying. Gently pry open the bloom and spoon or pipe in ricotta or goat cheese that has been spiked with herbs, Parmesan. and lemon zest.

  • Fried Stuffed Squash Blossoms
  • Oven Roasted Stuffed Squash Blossoms

You can also chop squash blossoms and add them to soups or pasta dishes, adding them to the bowl just before serving. They add both flavor and color to a simple cheese quesadilla. Heat a tortilla in a dry pan; when both sides are golden, add cheese and several squash blossoms to one side and fold in half, pressing the sides together. The cheese will melt and the blossoms will steam. Delicious!

  • Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms

Browse hundreds of squash recipes and find more cooking inspiration.

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How to Process and Eat Your Incredible Edible Pumpkin

Gardening Recipes Posted on October 8, 2018 Tyrant Farms is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more 683shares

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Edible pumpkin flowers, edible pumpkin leaves, edible pumpkin flesh… If you’re trying to figure out what parts of a pumpkin are edible or just want to know how to eat your Halloween jack-o-lantern, you’re in the right place!

This is Part 2 in our pumpkin series. Make sure you didn’t miss the first article:

Why grow your own pumpkins?

One of the many benefits of growing your own pumpkins instead of buying canned pumpkin from the grocery store is that you can eat every part of the plant!

Yes, pumpkin flowers, leaves, stems, seeds, and flesh (including pumpkin skin) are all edible.

Why else would you grow your own pumpkins? You might enjoy growing unusual heirloom varieties of pumpkins for their unique characteristics.

Left: Long Island Cheese pumpkin (ideal for pumpkin pie, pumpkin pudding, etc.). Right: Pipian from Tuxpan winter squash/pumpkin, a rare heirloom bred for its large edible seeds.

Just as with tomatoes, different varieties of pumpkins offer different flavors. In fact, we grow some pumpkin varieties that are so sweet and nutty on their own, that no additional sugar is needed to turn them into pies!

A pile of winter squash and pumpkins from our garden. Winter squash and pumpkins are virtually genetically identical members of the cucurbit family and easily cross-pollinate with each other.

We also grow varieties of pumpkins that are bred to have especially delicious seeds, such as Pipian from Tuxpan and Styrian pumpkins.

You might also want to grow your own pumpkins to ensure that they don’t contain any synthetic pesticides, and that they were grown in ways that nurtured the soil, rather than degrading the soil.

A garden can be home to an amazing amount of biodiversity. Here’s a tree frog hanging out above a baby pumpkin in our garden. Amphibians are especially susceptible to pesticide exposure, which is one reason we never use them. Frogs also make a great addition to our integrated pest management team!

This article is intended to be a guide to help you enjoy all the edible parts of your pumpkin, whether home-grown or store-bought. Hopefully, more Halloween pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns end up on dinner tables rather than in landfills!

I. How to Eat Pumpkin Flowers

We love eating various types of flowers from our garden, many of which are amazing superfoods packed full of nutrition. Some of the largest and tastiest flowers we grow are edible pumpkin flowers.

What do pumpkin flowers taste like? Pumpkin flowers have a sweet yet slightly earthy flavor.

Since pumpkins, winter squash, and summer squash are all closely related cucurbits, we eat lots of their flowers throughout the summer.

How do you eat pumpkin flowers?

Handful of edible pumpkin flowers. Nothing wrong with munching on these while you’re walking around the garden! Just make sure you open them up to take a peak inside first since bees can sometimes get trapped inside.

Sometimes we munch our pumpkin flowers straight off of the plant when we’re in the garden. Pumpkin flowers can also be added to salads, dipped in pancake batter and fried, or chopped and used as a garnish.

No matter how you eat them, you’ll enjoy knowing that a single cup of pumpkin flowers offers the following nutritional profile:

  • 643 IU Vitamin A
  • 9 mg Vitamin C
  • 57 mg Potassium
  • a host of other essential micronutrients to keep you healthy

Tip: If you want to eat pumpkin flowers and still get actual pumpkins, only eat the male pumpkin flowers!

It’s easy to tell the male and female flowers apart once you’ve seen them both. Female pumpkin flowers (right) have the immature fruit at the base that will eventually become the mature pumpkin. Male pumpkin flowers (left) do not.

Pumpkins are “monoecious,” meaning a single plant will produce both male and female flowers, allowing it to reproduce without another pumpkin plant.

Bees and other pollinators use the pollen from the male flowers to pollinate the female flowers. Either: a) leave plenty of male flowers on the plant for your pollinators to do their work, or b) become a “pollinator” yourself by taking the harvested male flowers and rubbing their stamens against the female flower’s pistils once you’ve harvested the flowers. (Sorry if that sounds a bit X-rated.)

Like other plants in the squash family, pumpkins always produce a good number of male flowers BEFORE they produce their first female flowers. This is done to attract pollinators to the plant before they put energy into producing female flowers.

Four easy ways to eat your pumpkin flowers:

  1. eat them raw in the garden,
  2. add them for visual interest to a salad (the petals have the same texture as lettuce),
  3. roll them in pancake batter and cook them in a skillet like a pancake (finished with maple syrup or berries),
  4. stuff them with goodies and fry them (here’s a good recipe).

Funky! This giant, warty winter squash/pumpkin is the result of a few years of somewhat purposeful, somewhat accidental crossing between some of our favorite varieties. Our bees certainly helped us along the way!

II. How to Eat Pumpkin Leaves

Yes, pumpkin leaves are edible too! In fact, they’re even considered a delicacy in parts of Asia.

Pick the young-medium aged leaves (not the older tougher ones). Then use them in cooked recipes like you would spinach or a heavy winter green.

Yes, pumpkin leaves are edible! Here you can see pumpkin leaves at various ages. The younger leaves are best for eating (the ones my hand are on). The older leaves (above) will be tougher, but could be chopped for use in a baked dish or pickled and used to make stuffed wraps (like pickled grape leaves are used).

We’re itching to make a pumpkin Spanakopita using both pumpkin leaves (in place of spinach) and pumpkin flesh.

III. How to Prepare & Eat Pumpkin Seeds

Wok-frying pumpkin seeds on medium-high heat. Add a touch of high-heat oil, sea salt to taste, then cook until golden brown, turning frequently.

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein, magnesium, copper, and zinc. The oils in pumpkin seeds are incredibly healthy for you, containing good fatty acids such as oleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.

Perhaps the best pumpkin for edible pumpkin seeds is the Styrian pumpkin from Austria. These offer hull-less seeds, unlike most pumpkins whose seeds have a fibrous hull.

To harvest your edible pumpkin seeds from a typical Halloween pumpkin, simply do the following:

1. Slice open your pumpkin (to eat or to make as a jack-o-lantern).

2. Scoop out the seeds with your hands or a large, sturdy spoon. Place the seeds in a bowl. *Some pumpkin varieties have seeds with white husks over the nut meat, and some just contain the green nutmeat, aka “pepitos.”

3. Heat a frying pan or wok on medium-high heat. Add enough high heat vegetable oil (we like organic sunflower, grapeseed, or raw coconut oil) to sauté them, depending on how many seeds you have.

4. Once the pan is hot, add the pumpkin seeds. *Don’t worry if there is a little bit of pumpkin “guts” still attached, this cooks up fine and adds some nice flavor & nutrition.

5. As soon as the seeds are in the pan, add some fresh ground sea salt. Stir repeatedly to ensure light, even browning uniformly on the seeds’ surfaces. Let them cool down, but eat them while they’re still warm for best flavor! They’ll also store for a long time and make a great, healthy alternative to potato chips.

IV. How to Prepare & Eat Pumpkin Flesh (the “Meat” of the Plant)

Yum! We’re preparing to stick this green-skinned heirloom Jarrahdale pumpkin into the oven at Tyrant Farms.

Pumpkin flesh is healthy, delicious, and versatile. It can be used in a seemingly infinite variety of dishes (or flavoring for various drinks).

It’s also very easy to turn a large pumpkin into usable pumpkin puree, freezing enough to last until the next year.

Here’s how to process and eat your incredible edible pumpkin:

1. Turn your oven to Bake on 350 degrees.

2. Cut your pumpkin into chunks small enough to fit on a baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with foil or parchment paper first so the pumpkin doesn’t stick when you bake it.

3. Put the pumpkin chunks onto the baking sheet, skin side up/flesh side down, so that the pumpkin meat doesn’t get charred.

4. Bake until the pumpkin flesh is soft (the amount of time it takes will vary depending on the size of your chunks and the type of pumpkin you’re using). A simple test to know when it’s done: you should be able to stick a fork through the biggest chunks of pumpkin without much effort.

5. Remove pumpkin chunks from oven, let cool, then scoop out the meat and put the skin in compost. (*We often puree our skin too since it’s loaded with nutrition, so try both ways to see what you like best, which may depend on the variety of pumpkin used.)

6. Put the pumpkin meat in a food processor and blend it until it’s smooth and chunk-free.

Fresh pumpkin puree made from pumpkins – so much better than stuff in a can!

You now have fresh pumpkin puree that you can use immediately or freeze for later use in pies, puddings, breads, soups, pumpkin spice pancakes, and many other dishes.

We hope you enjoy all parts of your incredible, edible pumpkin. Remember, if you grow your own pumpkins, you can select unusual varieties for their unique culinary qualities AND eat the flowers and leaves as they grow!

Read part 1 of this pumpkin series: A quick look inside the history and folklore of your halloween pumpkin.

Did you enjoy this article? Please share this image to Pinterest!

KIGI,

More pumpkin articles you’ll love from Tyrant Farms:

  • Recipe: How to make Tony and Andrea’s pumpkin champagne
  • The history, origins, and folklore of pumpkins
  • Disappearing whole wheat spiced pumpkin pancakes
  • Mom’s pumpkin chili with turkey and black beans
  • Fall harvest coffee cake with pumpkins and apples

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Can you Eat Pumpkin Flowers?

We all love pumpkins during Fall and just recently lots of my readers have asked me are pumpkin flowers edible after seeing all my delicious pumpkin recipes.

During Fall we are so used to seeing lots of pumpkins everywhere! We can get them from the grocery store, and use them for carving or cooking! However in the past I have only ever seen whole pumpkins and none of the pumpkin plant for sale.

I guess this is why so many actually question are pumpkin flowers edible and if so how can they be modified for pumpkin recipes.

The moment of truth, can you eat them or not?

Yes pumpkin flowers are edible, and surprisingly so is every part of the pumpkin plant! This is why it is recommended you learn to grow pumpkins in your own backyard. You really are missing out on lots of goodness (like pumpkin fruit these are stuffed full of nutrients) and taste by just buying the actual pumpkin fruit. If you want to know more about healthy pumpkin flowers are you ned to check out the video below:-

A word of advice here if you like to have a nibble in the garden. While pumpkin flowers are extremely tempting to eat be careful when snacking on the male ones! No they don’t have a sharp taste, BUT they are needed to ensure the female flowers get pollinated.

Yep the bees need to get to the stamen on the male pumpkin flowers to transfer pollen to the female flowers so that the pumpkin fruit can grow!! I tell you all you need to know about no female pumpkin flowers and how to solve this!

I would never take any male pumpkin flowers off the vine until I am 100% sure my females have been pollinated. Basically I wait until August time before checking them.

So if they are edible, what do pumpkin flowers taste like

The taste slightly sweet and naturally like the actual pumpkin fruit itself, but perhaps they are not as strong. Everyone tastes different things when they eat the same foods so your experience might be different from mine.

If you like the sound of edible pumpkin flowers and you think you might like the taste you may want to check out some recipe ideas below.

Pumpkin flower recipes

Currently I do not have any pumpkin flower recipes of my own but I have found some other foodies who have delicious nutritious offerings for you to try. The good news is you can eat them as they are, raw. Perhaps you might consider doing this on a hot Summer’s day while you are relaxing in the garden. I love it when you do not have to cook pumpkin as it is a quick snack idea!

Bright yellow pumpkin flowers look stunning in the garden and in your salad. Your friends will be extremely impressed if you serve up a delicious bowl of pumpkin salad alongside some pumpkin flower leaves. They will certainly brighten your dinner plate. Hint hint, this can be a great way to get kids interested in eating salad!

Tyrant Farms suggests mixing pumpkin flowers with pancake batter and cooking them in a skillet. I have to confess I have only ever made mine with pumpkin puree before but I love pancakes so I am going to give this a try! I sometimes serve my pumpkin pancake with fresh cream and berries or apples!

If you fancy something a little more exotic you can try pumpkin flowers stuffed with prawns or in a stirfry. Asian recipes really bring the best out in pumpkin flowers!

I have even heard of people making pumpkin flower sauce and soup so there are new ideas for your recipe book!

How to make Fried Pumpkin Blossoms

Thanks for sharing!

Most people look at me funny when I say I am going to be serving fried pumpkin blossoms. Many people do not realize that they actually taste very much like fried morel mushrooms.

Fresh Pumpkin Blossoms

As you all know by now my Mom is an avid gardener. Every summer since I can remember she has been making her famous fried pumpkin blossoms. I grew up eating them, my children have grown up eating them and now my grandchildren are eating them. I guess that the tradition is being passed down through the generations because they are so good and taste like fried morel mushrooms.

Every spring, in our neck-of-the-woods, people go “mushroom hunting.” What they are actually doing is traipsing through the woods to find morel mushrooms. Now, remember, not all mushrooms are safe to eat. **Some mushrooms are poisonous so before you go gathering a handful make sure you are ingesting the safe varieties.

Now let’s take a trip to the farm…

See those lovely large green leaves growing on that mound of dirt? Those are pumpkins. Not just any kind of pumpkins but a variety called Connecticut Field Pumpkins. This particular variety of pumpkin is usually grown specifically for its blossoms. It can also be used for carving and for baking; although in my opinion there are better varieties to use for baking. It usually produces medium pumpkins; approximately 8 – 10 inches in height and 12 inches in diameter with the average weight being 12 pounds.

Pumpkin Plants

It is quick and easy to pick the pumpkin blossoms. They are so tender that they practically fall off into your hands when you pick them. Occasionally there will be a few bees inside the blossoms so we are always careful to tap the blossoms before we pick them. The bees help pollinate the plants and that, in turn, is what helps the plants produce the pumpkins.

A Pumpkin Blossom

We gather as many of the blossoms that we want. If we leave the blossoms on the vine, they will eventually turn into pumpkins.

We take the blossoms home and gently rinse them with cool water.

Now for the yummy part.

Nutrition

Protein

2 g How to make Fried Pumpkin Blossoms Save Recipe Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 cups cracker crumbs
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh pumpkin blossoms

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, place finely ground cracker crumbs
  2. In a separate bowl, add eggs. Slightly beat them.
  3. Dip pumpkin blossoms in eggs, then into cracker crumbs.
  4. Place in a well greased skillet, heated to medium heat.
  5. Fry for 3 – 4 minutes.
  6. Flip and fry another 3 – 4 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Serve warm.

7.8.1.2 96 https://blessedbeyondcrazy.com/make-fried-pumpkin-blossoms/ www.blessedbeyondcrazy.com

*To make this recipe gluten-free, simply use gluten-free cracker crumbs or gluten-free Panko crumbs.

The first step is to dredge the pumpkin blossoms in the beaten eggs and allow the excess to drain off, then coat each side of the blossom with cracker crumbs.

A Pumpkin Blossom Covered in Eggs and Cracker Crumbs

Fry the blossoms in a small amount of oil, (I prefer extra virgin olive oil). It’s optional but you can sprinkle the blossoms with a dash of salt. (I usually do not salt mine because I feel like there is enough salt in the cracker crumbs). Fry blossoms on both sides until golden brown. Remove from heat and serve.

Frying Pumpkin Blossoms

I prefer my blossoms without condiments, however, my husband likes to eat his with ketchup. To make this recipe gluten-free simply substitute regular crackers with gluten-free cracker crumbs. All other ingredients are naturally gluten-free.

These pumpkin blossoms taste very similar to fried morel mushrooms and they are super easy to grow. No more ‘hunting’ for those ever evasive wild mushrooms… simply grow a few of these pumpkin plants and they will be at your very fingertips!

Fired Pumpkin Blossoms

Happy picking!

Linda

More great ideas:

Thanks for sharing!

Fried Stuffed Squash Blossoms

  • Prep

    30 m

  • Cook

    15 m

  • Ready In

    1 h 15 m

  1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice-cold water. Drop squash blossoms into the boiling water until slightly wilted, 30 to 45 seconds; transfer immediately into the cold water to chill. Remove to paper towels to drain.
  2. Mix goat cheese, egg yolk, Gruyere cheese, black pepper, and cayenne pepper together in a bowl; stir until smooth. Spoon filling into a heavy, resealable 1-quart plastic bag, squeeze out the air, and seal the bag. Cut a small corner off the bag.
  3. Gently insert the cut corner of the bag all the way to the bottom of the open end of a blossom and pipe about 1 tablespoon of filling inside. Pick up petals and drape them up over the filling, covering filling completely. Fold any excess petals over the top of the filled blossom to keep them out of the way. Refrigerate filled squash blossoms until cheese is set and firm, at least 30 minutes.
  4. Combine self-rising flour and cornstarch in a mixing bowl; whisk in ice-cold water, a little at a time, until batter is smooth and has the thickness of pancake batter.
  5. Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 1 inch into a heavy skillet (such as a cast iron pan) and place over medium heat. Heat oil until a thermometer placed into the oil, not touching the bottom, reads 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). A drop of batter carefully dripped into the oil should sizzle immediately.
  6. Remove squash blossoms from refrigerator and dust lightly with all-purpose flour on all sides. Shake off excess flour and dip blossoms in batter. Let excess batter drip off.
  7. Gently lay coated squash blossoms in the hot oil on their sides; cook about 6 at a time until pale golden brown, 1 minute on the first side and 30 seconds to 1 minute on the remaining sides. Let cool slightly before serving.

How to Prepare Squash Blossoms

To prepare squash blossoms, gently reach into the center of each blossom and pinch out the stamens or pistil, and discard.</p><p>Twist off the blossom and remove it from the squash. Reserve the squash for use in another recipe.</p><p>Hold the blossoms in your hand and rinse lightly under cold running water. Rinse lightly because the blossoms are delicate. Place the blossoms on a paper towel to drain. You can cook blossoms with the stems, but some cooks don’t like the texture of the straight stems (on the male flowers) and break them off first.</p><p>To stuff the blossoms, hold each one open with your fingers and place the filling mixture inside. In this recipe, it&#8217;s a mixture of cream cheese, goat cheese and Parmesan. Place about 1 to 2 teaspoons of the filling into each blossom, then close and twist to keep the filling inside.</p><p>To cook the stuffed blossoms, heat butter in a skillet and add blossoms to the pan. Use a spoon to place the blossoms in the pan because they&#8217;re still quite delicate.</p><p>Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges, turning once. Remove from the pan and drain.</p><p>You can also dredge the blossoms in flour before cooking. First, heat olive oil in a skillet with some unpeeled garlic cloves. (The garlic will flavor the oil.)</p><p>Carefully dip the blossoms in beaten egg, then in flour, and add to the hot oil. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once. Remove from the pan, and drain on paper towels.</p><p>

Produce Encyclopedia

Squash blossoms are the edible flower blossom of all varieties of summer and winter squash. They are extremely delicate to handle and should be used the day they are picked.

Pack Size

35 count Clamshell

Applications/Techniques

Ideally, squash blossoms should be used the day they are picked. They are commonly used as an appetizer after being stuffed with Ricotta or Fromage Blanc and herbs, battered and lightly fried. Other possible uses for squash blossoms include: tacos and quesadillas, pizzas, pastas, and risottos, frittatas and omelets, garnish for soups.

History

When the squash plants begin to blossom, bees buzz around the garden searching for nectar. The bees’ chances are extra good in the morning, when the squash blossoms open up. When bees visit a male flower, get down deep inside it, they pick up messy pollen. Then when they get to the female flowers, they transfer the pollen, leaving the male flower’s pollen behind and pollinating the female flower. The male and female DNA combine to produce a fertilized egg which develops into a seed. Then, germination occurs, this is when the seed coat breaks open and the germ inside begins to grow, producing that fruit, aka zucchini. In hot weather, this takes only four to eight days!

Flavor Friends

  • Basil
  • Cheese-fromage blanc, goat, mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta
  • Corn
  • Marjoram
  • Olive oil
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Pepper, black
  • Pesto
  • Risotto
  • Sage
  • Salads
  • Savory
  • Soup
  • Tomatoes

The Best (Non-Fried) Ways to Eat Squash Blossoms

Every other week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today: Your dinner could use a little flower power.

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The term “squash blossoms” generally refers to zucchini blossoms, though almost every member of the squash genus (Cucurbita) produces edible flowers. Those flowers can be either male or female and if you’re buying them at the farmers market, telling the different between them is simple: Pick up a punnet of blossoms and you’re getting male blossoms; buy baby summer squashes with blossoms at the end of them and you’re getting female blossoms.

The gender distinction doesn’t matter much if you’re buying your blossoms—they can, of course, be used in exactly the same ways. And both the female and male reproductive parts inside the blossoms are edible, as is the calyx, the green leaf-like base (1, pictured below) —though some people prefer to remove all non-petal parts due to their crunch factor.

On the other hand, if you’re harvesting blossoms yourself, it’s important to be able to distinguish between male and female flowers. You’ll only want to harvest male flowers, as the female flowers are what develop into squash. Just don’t pick all of the male flowers; you’ll need to leave some for pollination purposes. If high school botany class seems like a distant memory, Food52er sfmiller helps you differentiate between the flowers—you won’t even need to identify stamens and pistils. She explains: “Female blossoms have a fleshy ovary behind the flower, where it attaches to the vine; it becomes a squash if the flower is pollinated. Male blossoms attach directly to the vine and have a more hairy or downy appearance.”

More: Former Food52 Editor Nozlee Samadzadeh wrote a missive on plant reproduction that’s not to be missed.

Whether purchased from the market or picked from your garden (which is best done first thing in the morning), you’ll want to use your squash blossoms quickly—ideally the same day. Like other edible flowers, squash blossoms have a very short shelf life.

To store them, Elizabeth Schneider recommends spreading them out on a towel-lined baking sheet, and then covering them with plastic wrap. She also suggests cleaning them by dunking them in a bowl of water a few times or holding them under the faucet and letting a gentle stream of water run into each blossom. I will confess that if I don’t see any bugs in the blossoms, I don’t always go to the trouble of washing them.

Over the years, Food52ers have shared a number of ideas for using squash blossoms over on the Hotline. Here are 10 of them to get you started:

  1. Helen’s All Night Diner recommends squash blossom soup, saying, “I made one a couple of years ago that had onions, poblano chiles, and some cream, along with the shredded squash blossoms. It was fantastic.”
  2. Mrslarkin seconds the soup suggestion and adds, “Slice blossoms into ribbons and use with other veggies as you would to make a minestrone or vegetable soup.”
  3. Food52 photographer James Ransom says, “You can slice them and add them to a frittata or omelet. Or top a risotto with sliced blossoms (they should wilt under the heat of the rice). I’ve been thinking about salt-and-sugar curing them, like chefs do with hardier greens, but I don’t have a recipe to share yet.”
  4. Lucy’s Mom also likes squash blossoms with eggs: “My Italian grandfather taught me to scramble them with eggs and some fresh herbs—delicious!”
  5. Greg027 suggests making squash flower tacos by sautéing chopped onion and garlic in olive oil, adding the blossoms in at the end, and then serving the mixture with avocado, sea salt, and hot sauce.
  6. Eatatvino and amysarah use them in quesadillas.
  7. While in France, FoodSlinger enjoyed squash blossoms in a salad with cold boiled potatoes, onion, Niçoise dressing, and white anchovies.
  8. Leaf & Grain reminds us that it’s possible to turn almost anything into pesto—squash blossoms are no exception.
  9. Healthierkitchen suggests using them as a pizza topping.
  10. Cheekoli likes to slice squash blossoms and add them raw to green salads.

If you decide to take one of the most popular routes—to stuff the squash blossoms with cheese before baking or frying them—it’s still possible to get creative:

  • Clintonhillbilly stuffs blossoms with a mixture of raisins, fresh mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes, and then roasts them and drizzles them with walnut oil.
  • Cookinginvictoria says, “I love to stuff squash blossoms with finely chopped herbs and goat cheese or ricotta or even Parmesan cheese. Then I dip the blossoms into a thin batter (I make mine with flour and some seltzer water), and deep-fry them. Sprinkle with salt and eat—heaven!”
  • ChefJune suggests deep-frying blossoms that have been stuffed with a lavender and honey goat cheese blend.
  • QueenSashy says, “I like to mix ricotta, Parmesan, one egg, some herbs (e.g. basil or thyme), salt, and pepper, stuff the little guys, drizzle with olive oil, and put under a broiler for about 10 minutes. Serve with nice chunky tomato sauce.”
  • Lastnightsdinner reminds us that it isn’t necessary to stick with cheese. She was intrigued by Eric Ripert’s recipe for squash blossoms stuffed with a crabmeat mixture and steamed.

Tell us: What are your favorite ways to use squash blossoms?

Photos by James Ransom

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Squash blossoms erupting in gardens across the region are enough to make one gush, “Oh, my gourd!” And we’re here to talk about how to tame this summer delicacy.

The soft yellow blooms of pumpkins, zucchini, yellow squash or eight-ball squash are perfectly edible. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to harvest them from your own property’s patch — only do so in the early morning while they’re open — then be sure to snip a few inches of succulent stems. These keep the flower watered for a few hours until you’re ready to cook or eat them.

And the stems with their slightly celery-tasting profile also are good to eat. The little prickles on it and the blossom itself will soften up and melt away quickly when heated.

Zucchini flowers for sale in Travis.

WHERE TO BUY THEM

You can score zucchini flowers from gardens, of course, or long-time Staten Islanders who put signs outside their houses when there’s enough to sell by the bag. Keep your eyes peeled for when that board goes up at the corner of South Avenue and Victory Boulevard!

But the St. George Greenmarket regularly sells them now through the summer at Rabbits Run Farm with farmers Dan Torrison and Laurie Churchill, as well as S.I. Family Farm harvested by Port Richmond’s own Augustin Juarez and his family. (The market opens each Saturday, rain or shine, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the corner of St. Mark’s Place and Hyatt Street behind the St. George Theatre.)

They can specially ordered through restaurants that use Baldor or Sysco as a purveyor, although those bits of produce most likely are not from the region. And you can score them at fantastical Italian supermarket and importer La Bella Marketplace — 99 Ellis St., Tottenville; 718-967-2070.

On Port Richmond Avenue and in Mexican grocery stores, keep an eye out for a jar of Lupitas-brand Flor De Calabaza. The flowers are gently preserved in brine and these wet versions are the ones typically used in restaurant-made quesadillas and omelets.

Zucchini blossoms, tomatoes and purple carrots (Courtesy of Gus DiLeo)

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

We’ll get to how to prepare the flowers in just a moment, but first there are a few things to know.

The blooms are easier to stuff when wide open (hence the early morning harvest), plus you get more mileage from the petals when they’re spread apart naturally. And when they’re open it’s easier to spot, ahem, “travellers” — bees, ants and other sources of unwanted protein.

A common question from readers each year is whether or not to remove the stamen. Leave it in or take it out. While plucking it out allows for more surface area if the blooms are stuffed, I leave it in — it’s all edible. And when plugging it with something soft like polenta or fresh mozzarella, the stamen acts as an anchor for the petals.

Fried zucchini blossoms with a light beer or seltzer batter (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri) Staff-Shot

You can also batter them.

Coat them well in all-purpose flour. Then, coat well with a beaten egg. Fry those floured and egged blooms in vegetable oil.

Brown up those critters on both sides, until the egg is cooked. Drain on a paper towel or a paper bag to remove the excess oil. Now, serve them with a salad or alongside polenta finished with Mascarpone cheese or a few shaves of parmesan cheese.

Chick pea or fava flour is a handy alternative for those who gluten-intolerant.

Squash blossoms on display at Angelina’s Kitchen at The Staten Island Mall (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)Staff-Shot

Squash blossoms do not have to be cooked. They can be added to the top of a fritatta, added to a taco like lettuce or eaten with an anchovy. They can be served simply on a plate with a bit of balsamic vinegar reduction like ROSO which can be purchased from Pastosas or Little Italy Gourmet in New Dorp or the source that makes it — Royal Crown Bakery at 1352 Hylan Blvd., Grasmere; 718-987-5771 or Artisan Bakers Group at 708 Sharrotts Rd., Charleston; 718-605-0122.

Use a zucchini flower as if it were a radish: add it to a salad for a bit of crunch.

Blooms stuffed with ricotta and fried at Nino’s in Grasmere (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)staten island advance

STUFFED ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS (Fiori di Zucchini Ripieni)

(Makes 4)

INGREDIENTS:

8 zucchini flowers, pistils removed

1 cup very fresh ricotta cheese

1 large egg

1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1 small clove garlic, green germ in center removed, minced

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Fine sea salt, to taste

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup seltzer or beer

6 cups very mild olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Gently wipe zucchini blossoms clean. It is not recommended to wash them since water will make the oil spittle. Whisk together the ricotta, egg, cheese, garlic, nutmeg and a pinch of salt in a medium-size bowl.

Fit a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch round tip or — if none is handy, no worries — snip off the edge of a plastic sandwich bag. Spoon the filling into the bag, and then pipe the filling into the zucchini flowers, handling them gently. Each flower should contain approximately 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of filling.

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy saucepan over medium heat, 375 degrees. Make sure the oil is hot enough by taking the temp with an insta-read thermometer or by dropping in a bit of batter which should sizzle and float to the top when hot enough.

Dip one of the flowers in the batter, making sure it is evenly and thoroughly coated. If it has a small zucchini attached, make sure it is coated as well. Hold the flower over the bowl to let any excess drip off, and then lower it gently into the oil and cook just until the batter is crisp and golden, 4 to 5 minutes.

Work in small batches so there is enough room in the oil for the blossoms and batter to “swim.” Scoop out with a slotted spoon and rest on paper towels or a paper bag.

Serve immediately sprinkled with a bit of sea salt.

— Pamela Silvestri

Squash blossoms, as seen at the Portland Farmers Market on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (Grant Butler, The Oregonian/OregonLive) LC- Grant Butler, The Oregonian/OregonLiveLC- Grant Butler, The Oregonian/

Here’s a simple recipe: Brush off the bloom. Dust in all-purpose flour or cornstarch seasoned with salt and pepper. Fry in vegetable oil — olive oil is too heavy — in a skillet over medium-high heat and drain on paper bags or paper towels.

Zucchini blossom pie at DeLuca’s. (Courtesy of DeLuca’s in Tottenville) Third-Party-SubmittedThird-Party-Submitted

There are plenty of places to find gourd blossoms in Staten Island restaurants. At DeLuca’s in Tottenville, find zucchini blossoms occasionally on coal-fired pizzas.

Inside those zucchini blossoms at Aunt Butchie’s in Richmond Valley. (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri) Staff-ShotStaff-Shot

Aunt Butchie’s will feature them on the restaurant specials.

Bocelli in Grasmere offers them throughout the summer in various presentations, including as a dessert filled will cannoli cream, fried in beer batter and drizzled in chocolate sauce. Other known locations for zucchini/squash blossoms are: Basillio Inn in South Beach; Angelina’s in Tottenville; Trattoria Romana in Dongan Hills; Nino’s Restaurant in Grasmere; Italianissimo in South Beach, and Mario’s in Dongan Hills.

zucchini with blossoms press-register photo bnbn

Sometimes you’ll catch the flower for cooking after it’s already fruited. In this image you can see what may be referred to as a “courgette,” a baby zucchini and pretty delicacy.

Fried squash blossoms filled with mozzarella cheese and anchovies at Ninos in Grasmere. (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri) Staff-ShotStaff-Shot

Aunt Butchie’s will feature them on the restaurant specials.

Fading squash blossoms. (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri) Staff-ShotStaff-Shot

Squash blossoms continue to sprout from the plant’s creeping vines through the fall. Over the summer the leaves might turn yellow or brown. This can be from fungus that results from too much water or a humid stretch of days. It is best to water a squash patch early in the day to reduce the chance of mold spores.

For a light batter: Dredge squash blossoms in flour. Coat in a mixture of beaten egg and a little cold water.

TASTES LIKE A ZEPPOLE: Squash blossoms with cannoli in beer batter with drizzles of chocolate and Grand Marnier. (Courtesy of Lina Pica) Third-Party-Submitted

Squash blossoms are back! And somewhat less importantly, so am I…

So you might not care at all what happened to me after only 4 posts, but I’ll tell you anyway because I have control of the keyboard. It’s a tragic story for an experimental veggie-lover, filled with heartache and loss and gross things growing in the fridge… Basically, I got knocked up. Woo-hoo! Baby #2 on the way! But in early January, when I had just found out that I would not be allowed to have alcohol for ALL OF SPRING AND SUMMER (the tragic part), I also got violently ill for a week. I had just purchased the most glorious abundance of strangeness to try simply for your reading pleasure: kabocha squash and purslane and frilly mustard greens that I forget the name of and tatsoi, and the one I was most excited about, nettles – crazy stinging nettles that you need gloves to cook with and that the Irish survived the famine with and oh, it just sounded so bizarre and exciting. I even took a picture of some of it the morning before The Sickness:

And yes, that’s my son in the corner, judging me for photographing vegetables, or possibly pre-judging me for considering serving them to him. Cut to 1 week later when I could finally crawl out of bed, morning sickness kicking in so the only thing I wanted to eat was toast and jelly beans, and a plastic bag filled with green slime where beautiful greens used to be, and I didn’t want to touch anything new for months. Seriously. My veggie consumption consisted of very plain green salads, the occasional stalk of broccoli, and my beloved illustrious avocado. I don’t think I blanched or sauteed or even chopped until the 2nd trimester.

But to come back to the blog with squash blossoms! What a resurrection! See, squash blossoms are pretty much the epitome of farmer’s market glory. They’re extremely perishable and extremely fragile and have a relatively short-lived season and are hugely popular and yet no one grows them for sale, so they’re just, frankly, the elitist little goody two-shoes of the market. You have to get to the market within an hour of opening times to even GET squash blossoms, because all the chefs buy up garbage bags worth and there’s nothing left by 10 am (did I say 10? I meant 11:30) when we’ve finally rolled out of bed. Don’t even try the grocery store. They won’t have them.

Squash blossoms are just meant to be stuffed. They have long beautiful petals that you can fold over each other and tuck under the base like a ballerina’s limbs. They have a very delicate flavor – mildly squash-like, but not mealy or bitter. They don’t taste of perfume like other edible flowers, either. They just taste like pockets of Fresh. Most recipes for squash blossoms call for stuffing with some kind of filling (soft cheese and/or shellfish-based, generally), then dipping in batter and deep frying, and to that I say, ARE YOU NUTS?? I’m not a huge fan of batter fried veggies in general, I’ll admit, but with something so delicate, the entire thing just melts in the oil and you’re basically left with deep fried filling…which now that I type it doesn’t sound so bad. So the other reason I’m against it is, meh. Deep frying? What a chore! I’m not a fan of really messy time-consuming preparations that waste a lot of an ingredient (oil in this case), so we’ve only bothered deep frying once, and it wasn’t worth the effort. Here’s my tips and shortcuts:

You’ve got to start when they’re fresh. And I mean REALLY fresh. If you can’t get them at the market, grow your own. Zucchini start by putting forth male flowers, followed by female flowers – the females will grow a zucchini from the base of the flower, so if you want zucchini, don’t pluck all the blossoms in the first flush of growth, or all the blossoms on your plant. Apparently, the ancient Romans loved squash blossoms so much they barely even knew it grew a fruit – they only grew fruit for the seeds and didn’t eat it. They only ate the blossoms, or so says some semi-reputable source. Probably wikipedia.

If they’ve sat around in the heat of the morning, they’ll start to wilt – this is what happened with ours, and why there are so few pictures on this post. When they wilt, they get thin, and even more delicate, and they rip ridiculously easily when you try to stuff them. Save the slightly wilted and ripped for non-stuffing uses – they’re still yummy. If they’ve sat around on the counter for a day, they’ll turn slimy. Throw them out. You really have 2-3 days tops from plucking if you put them in the fridge or better yet put their stems in water; otherwise, wait until next market day.

So How to Stuff: There’s no other way to say it. You’re going to need a suppository. Take a half tsp of your mixture (we like goat cheese, fresh herbs- especially rosemary- and garlic, but shrimp or crab with ricotta is also extremely rich and delicious) and roll it in your palms until it’s suppository-shaped: mostly oblong and thinner at one end. Open the blossom as carefully as you can, stuff the thin end into the base, and then squish in the fatter end. Twist up the petal tails to close it off, or tuck them under if cheese is oozing out the sides. Most recipes, again, will tell you to remove the pollen stamens first, but we’ve never bothered. Most also say to destem, but I like the stems – they’re the most vegetable-tasting part of the whole thing, a very tiny, very mild zucchini flavor, and if you’re deep frying, they’re helpful to leave on for plucking the blossom out of the hot oil.

But we don’t deep fry. We put them on a piece of aluminum foil on a toaster oven sheet and bake or broil at 400 or 425 until brown on top. If you spray or drizzle with oil first, you can get a little crisp on them, which is divine. And that’s it! They’re basically attractive, labor-intensive, goat cheese receptacles at this point, but they’re oh so good.

For the wilted and ripped, put a 1/4-inch of oil in a skillet and flash fry. Toss into a salad for a crouton-y crunch – salads meant for warm dressings, like spinach or arugula, fare the best with the addition of hot veggies, and you can use some of the leftover oil in the skillet to make a hot dressing – or, better yet, toss with pasta and whatever you would have used to stuff them with if you hadn’t been too busy to get to them the day you bought them. You can douse them in a bit of egg before you fry to help them hold their shape. Blossom Day 2 dinner was pasta with chopped bacon, shredded chard, goat cheese, and flash-fried squash blossoms, tossed only with rosemary-infused olive oil. It was so good we actually fought over who got the last squash blossom. IN A MEAL WITH BACON. That’s pretty impressive.

Trim? Most people recommend trimming off the stem and pulling out the stamens, especially if they’re already at the pollen stage. I don’t. I think they taste delicious, and I’m lazy.
Edible when raw? Yes, though pretty bland and VERY green-tasting, especially in the more succulent base. If you’ve ever chewed on sweet grass, it’s a little like that. Cooking preferred.
Worth the price of organic? Yes, if you can find them. Squash blossoms appear for harvest before the more popular fruit, which means they appear at the stage in which even farmers who try to reduce pesticide use are probably doing one last pre-fruit spray. As a result, though, only really die-hard organic farmers are going to have organic squash blossoms, and they’ll cost you – they’re often used as bait to trap/lure bugs away from the zucchini themselves, so the blossoms get eaten to shreds by nature.
In season: Early summer, and sometimes mid or late fall, a very brief window. If you see them, nab them.
Best with: Soft cheeses (especially goat), shellfish, fresh herbs (rosemary, garlic, cilantro in particular), avocado.
How to Store: They don’t store well. A note: don’t wash them. They’ll rot quite quickly. Brush out bugs with your fingers or a paper towel, and if they stems are long enough, place in a glass of water like you would any cut flower. Store in the fridge until they start to wilt, maximum 2-3 days. If the stems are short for water, a paper bag is best, but it makes little difference. You should eat them before the packaging has a chance to matter.

Edible Squash Blossoms

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Try something new this season. Harvest and enjoy a few squash blossoms fresh from the garden.

The flowers of both summer and winter squash are edible. You can eat them raw, dipped in batter and fried, stuff with cheese and baked, served over pasta or in a quesadilla.

You can eat both the male and female flowers. Leave enough female flowers on the plant to produce the amount of fruit you desire. Always leave a few male flowers for pollination. Male flowers have a thin straight stem and the female flowers have a miniature fruit just below the flower petals.

Harvest squash blossoms midday when the flowers are open. Cut the stem one inch below the flower. Carefully rinse them in a container of cool water and store in ice water in the refrigerator. Flowers are best used fresh, but may last in storage for a day or two.

A bit more information: for squash blossom recipes. And don’t forget to enjoy a few summer squash. For the best flavor, harvest summer squash when they are small and tender. Pick zucchini and other long squash when it is two inches in diameter and six to eight inches long. Patti pan and other scalloped summer squash taste best when they are three to four inches in diameter.

Pride at the first giant zucchini is a rite of passage for all new gardeners. But there’s often a letdown when they discover that the monsters don’t taste the same as their tender young siblings. These overripe squash become fibrous-fleshed, and the center is filled with large seeds that must be removed before cooking.

Truth is, the smaller the zucchini, the better it is in the kitchen. The flesh is soft and sweet, the seeds still so immature they are barely noticeable. For the gourmet, baby zucchini the size of your finger are considered a delicacy that costs far more per ounce than the larger fruits.

In cultures where life is a bit more challenging, every form of food is utilized to its greatest extent. There, another crop is derived from the zucchini plant. It’s relatively unknown to beginning gardeners and most Americans, yet its origins tell a fascinating botanical tale.

Zucchini is a squash, a group of plants closely related to pumpkins and gourds. Zucchini is the fastest-growing of all, and is grouped with the summer squashes, which flower and fruit in a matter of days. Winter squashes, which include pumpkins, mature slowly and develop a hard shell that makes them ideal for long-term winter storage. Gourds are similar but inedible. All of them reproduce by the pollination of large orange flowers that mature into fruit.

Zucchini, as with all summer squashes, bear two kinds of flowers on the same plant. The female flowers contain the ovary that will develop into the zucchini fruit itself. For every female flower, there are at least three male flowers produced on the same plant, these bearing only the pollen-making organs. Bees do the job of carrying pollen from the male to female flowers.

Once the female flower has faded and begins to form fruit, the role of the male flowers is over. As a result, a large zucchini plant may end up with lots of excess male flowers. These large male flowers are edible. These blooms can be prepared in a variety of delicious dishes.

In the case of winter squashes that don’t mature until very late, blossoms offer a food crop early in the season. This is valuable for farmers, who may have little to feed their families until the main crops mature.

In Asia, for example, the flowers are fried in batter for a crunchy tempura-like snack. In Italy, they are stuffed and baked for savory packets. Native Americans even made squash-blossom soup.

A very simple dish for fresh male squash blossoms is a quesadilla made on the comal, a large flat grill set over charcoal. Quesadillas can be made on virtually any kind of flat surface, from a frying pan to a pancake grill.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, cooks use large burrito-style flour tortillas for this fresh-from-the-garden dish.

First, cut the stems from your harvested blossoms. Then spread six or eight of them out in a single layer over half the tortilla’s surface. On top of this lay thin strings of mozzarella or Mexican Oaxaca cheese. Fold the tortilla over and let it heat gradually, then flip over. When the cheese is fully melted and the blossoms have collapsed, the quesadilla is ready. Serve with black mole sauce for a truly exceptional summer taste treat.

Nothing compares with zucchini for giving the new gardener a hassle-free early harvest. But resist the temptation to grow giants. Tender baby squash and male flowers mean you can start eating out of the garden earlier than you ever imagined.

Maureen Gilmer is a horticulturist. Her blog, the MoZone, offers ideas for cash-strapped families. Read the blog at www.MoPlants.com/blog. E-mail her at [email protected] Also, join her online for the Garden Party social networking at Learn2grow.com.

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