Written by Naomi Sager
This time of year, when strolling through a vegetable garden you might notice the presence of relatively large, vivid, and boldly colored yellow/orange flowers of cucurbits (that is, the gourd family: including zucchini, squash, cucumber, and pumpkins, among many others).
These flowers, sometimes referred to as squash blossoms or zucchini flowers, have an added bonus. In addition to their striking appearance: they are edible!
The flowers are quite soft in texture, and have a mild squash-like flavour.
If you’re looking to harvest these flowers to eat, it’s important to know that cucurbits have both a male and female flower: the female flower will develop into a the fruit (zucchini, squash, etc.), while the male flower serves to pollinate the female one.
Thus, if you’re looking to grow fruit, be sure to pick the male flowers (and not all of them, so that pollination can still occur). You can also pick the females, just do so in moderation, to ensure you still have a fruit to harvest.
To identify the sex of a cucurbit flower look for the following indicators:
-Grow on longer stocks
-Grow closer to the center of the plant
-Have a bulbous end
Once you’ve picked the flowers, remove any stamens or pistils, and gently check inside the flower to ensure there are no bugs residing inside. Then, gently rinse the flowers, and shake off the water.
The flowers can be eaten raw, such as in salads, sauteed as a unique side dish, or even stuffed and then fried, where the delicate flower creates a wonderfully crispy outer layer!
If the idea of stuffing and frying squash blossoms has inspired you, check out this delicious sounding Three-Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossom recipe.