Zucchini

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

July 26, 2015

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.

Squash Blossoms

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

Squash Blossoms

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.

Squash Blossoms

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.

Squash Blossoms

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

16 Comments

Kerstin W. July 26, 2016
Stuff with a poultry (our scallop) based farce and steam for 12 mins ... https://www.facebook.com/VillaVelleron/photos/a.10150796969906808.474316.394722486807/10155019867366808/?type=3&theater
 
Tattie June 12, 2016
I don't stuff, just dip and fry. <br />The batter I use is flour, salt and vinho verde wine. A pesto mayo or salsa verde is the perfect dip. A glass of the vinho verde wine is the perfect accompaniment as it cuts the fat nicely.
 
kristin August 4, 2015
Turkish-style squash blossoms stuffed with a mixture of rice, sauteed onions, and fresh herbs. Drizzled with lemon juice on top.
 
Carlos G. August 3, 2015
I´m from México where the "flor de calabaza" is part of the day to day cuisine. In quesadilla you can eat it raw, adding the complete flower just before serving.
 
Cathy August 2, 2015
I love all the suggestions. So many possibilities.<br />I stuff them with a sausage mixture and bake them. http://www.cathyarkle.com/shepaused4thought/zucchini-blossoms-painting-procreating-preparation/
 
Moonunitgirl August 2, 2015
My two favorite ways are rellenos and stuffed with cheese and herbs. For the rellenos, cut a piece of queso or Monterey Jack and place in the blossom. Dip in a light batter and fry. Serve with a green chili sauce. For the stuffed one, saute some aromatics in a little olive oil. Add to ricotta cheese and some chopped basil. Stuff the blossoms. Place in a glass dish with a little water covered with plastic wrap to steam them. Microwave on high one minute. Serve with a simple fresh tomato sauce and top with parmesan.
 
Rhea July 27, 2015
I use them atop a simple white pizza: get the recipe here http://www.azfoodieblog.com/grilled-squash-blossom-pizza/
 
Keka D. July 27, 2015
i love them best in fritters!<br />check this out: http://itistastyma.blogspot.in/2013/10/pumpkin-flower-fritters-kumro-phooler.html
 
Keka D. July 27, 2015
and here is an interesting stuffed variation :-) the stuffing is made from poppy seed paste<br />https://thecurrycousins.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/kumdo-phooler-pakoda-pumpkin-flower-fritters/
 
Maria July 27, 2015
I just had them in Crete, stuffed with a tomato herb rice, they were delicious. <br />I usually just fry them with a light batter made of flour and seltzer water. I sprinkle fleur de sal on top and have them hot.
 
Nancy July 27, 2015
While I love these blossoms fried, I also want non-fried alternatives like the eggs, tacos, quesdillas, salade nicoise. Thank you members for ideas & Lindsay-Jean for reminding us.
 
Annada R. July 26, 2015
I remember eating a mind-blowing salad a few years back with chinese long beans, zucchini blossoms, tomatoes that were marinated for a few hours in a vinaigrette made with soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. Delicious!
 
Annemch July 26, 2015
Sauté chopped zucchini and onion in a little olive oil add salt and pepper and cook until tender. Remove from heat and add chopped red basil and chopped zucchini blossoms - serve warm or at room temperature as a side dish or over penne.
 
MarZig July 26, 2015
The best meal I ever had was a pasta dish at this place called gino's in Sulmona Italy. Since that trip , I have been trying to find a recipe that approximates the dish. It was a pasta dish (Chitarra/Guitar pasta)the sauce was made with Zucchini flower, probably some zucchini fruit it was sort of a shade of white with green tings..It was creamy but I am not sure that there was cream in it...had a little spice to it... I am sure they used there red garlic I am sure there were other ingredients maybe some broth??? . I wish some one could figure out how they made it. It was the BOMB. I will have to make another trip to get more!!!!!!! Maybe someone on Food 52 can figure it out!
 
Mary E. July 26, 2015
I'm wondering if I could make squash blossom rellenos?<br />
 
MarZig July 26, 2015
ohhhh that sounds very interesting!!!!!! I hope you try it out!<br />