Zucchini and other summer squashes proliferate in the garden at an astonishing rate. This plays out in the supermarket when the price plummets from $2/pound to $.49/pound during peak season. Grocers practically give it away, and home gardeners usually do.
For me, this is good news since most markets (farmers’ or traditional brick and mortar) don’t sell squash blossoms – the flower that precedes the vegetable. And with their prolific growth rate, I may actually get enough flowers to serve a meal to more than one guest. The few times I’ve seen them in the markets they can cost $1/each. I’ve seen squash blossoms in Native American, Mexican and Italian Cuisines. This suggests to me that they are not a faddish new vegetable… they have been enjoyed for centuries. In Oaxaca, Mexico, Squash blossoms are a frequent filling for Quesadillas or a garnish for tortilla soup.
Harvesting squash blossoms requires careful timing. You want them before they bloom, though sometimes it’s tough to distinguish between a bloom that opened and closed, and one that has yet to open. You can see here that the tip of the flower on the left is slightly curled. This is a sure sign that the flower already opened.
Once you harvest the squash blossom, gingerly pull open a petal and snip out the stamen – which can be especially bitter and ruin a perfectly good meal. I had tried to take a picture for you – when the blossom was fully open, stamen poking out, but in the 10 minutes it took me to run inside and grab my camera, the flower had already started to close up.
Sometimes, the bloom grows out of the zucchini, and sometimes it just grows out of the stem. If can get it off the vegetable, then you are in for a treat.
In the Italian style, squash blossoms are stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto. They can be battered and fried and served with a light tomato sauce. In the Mexican style, I stuff them with black beans, goat cheese and mint. I spice the batter with a little cumin and chili and serve them with a tomato salsa.
In the farmers market this week, globe zucchini flank the tables. Their bulbous shape makes them ideal for stuffing. My favorite is a traditional Eastern European flavored beef filling – mixed with rice, onions and tomatoes, seasoned with cinnamon, lemon zest, pine nuts and raisins.
Fried Squash Blossoms with Tomato Salsa20 squash blossoms, stamen gently removed
¼ lb. goat cheese
1/2 cup cooked black beans, seasoned with dried cumin and oregano
1 tbs. fresh mint, chopped
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
salt, pepper and cumin to taste
oil for frying
1. Mix the filling by combining cheese, black beans and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Gingerly stuff each squash blossom with about 1 tablespoon of filling.
3. Make a batter by combining flour, baking powder, salt and cumin. Make a well and add egg and 1 cup water. Whisk to combine.
4. Heat a large pot with oil. Gently dip each blossom in batter and fry in oil until golden brown on all sides. Serve with salsa.