One thing I love about Italians is that they live life more simply than we, North Americans, do. They enjoy produce when it’s in season when the flavors are deeper and the costs are cheaper. (Wow! That rhymes…did you notice?) Right now, that means most of us are eating zucchini almost on a daily basis. So when my neighbor called from the market to ask if I wanted some fresh produce–and I assured her that I did–I knew the bag of surprise produce would include zucchini. What I didn’t know is that they would have flowers still attached to them.

 

You can even buy packages of blossoms in the grocery store…these are pumpkin blossoms, not zucchini blossoms, but hey, a blossom is a blossom.

Italians love  eating zucchini blossoms so that’s going to be my focus for this blog. Here are some things you might be interested to learn about them:

  • There are male zucchini flowers...they look like this:

  • And there are female zucchini flowers…which look like this:

The major difference is that the female blossoms have a baby zucchini on the end and the male blossoms are just on a plain stem. You need both types in your garden so that bees can fertilize the female flowers…but if you have an abundance of male blossoms, you can pick them and eat them. Or, you can pick the female blossoms off of the zucchini once it has begun to grow.

A high calcium content in the soil and water–which we have here in Italy–help to produce especially healthy blossoms. If yours rot quickly, or the blossom-end of your zucchini goes soft quickly, it’s probably due to lack of calcium.

So if you’ve got some zucchini blossoms, here are three ways to fix them:

  1. Zucchini Blossom Sauce to serve over pasta
  2. Zucchini Blossoms in Beer Batter
  3. Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta Cheese

One thing about blossoms that is true for every recipe–so I’ll say it here rather than put it into each recipes–is that it is a good idea to open the flower gently and remove the stamen as it can be bitter.

Let’s start with Zucchini Blossom Sauce which can be eaten as a side dish or over pasta. I got this recipe from the Italian Farmhouse Cookbook. The author used only blossoms, which I’d like to try sometime, but I adapted her recipe since my neighbor had brought me whole zucchini firmly attached to their blossoms.

First, I sauteed some onion with the diced zucchini in a little olive oil just until they were softened a bit… (If you’ve got lots of blossoms in your garden, leave the zucchini out at this point.)

Then, I added the blossoms and some fresh herbs…you could use mint or basil…

I sauteed that just for a minute or two, added some salt before covering them and cooking for about 3 minutes. You can eat this as a side dish, or serve it over pasta. You’ll want to use some of the pasta water to moisten the dish and a grating of Parmesan would add a nice touch.

Next, let talk about Zucchini Blossoms in Beer Batter.  If you don’t have beer, and don’t want to buy any, you can use seltzer water instead. Last summer an Italian friend gave me a big bag of  zucchini blossoms from her garden. That was my first encounter with blossoms…and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. I found a recipe for Fried Zucchini Blossoms and tried them. They were delicious!  We had friends visiting us that week (my daughter’s in-laws) and Jean and I made a very non-professional movie for our daughter, Andrea, to show her how to fry the blossoms. It’s five minutes long…click HERE if you want a few minutes of entertainment watching Jean and I fry Zucchini Blossoms in Beer Batter. Remember, it’s very non-professional. I’m a bit nervous that my daughter might consider filling out documents to disown me once she sees I’ve gone public with it!

Whenever you’re frying blossoms, you don’t want to wash them off…just brush them lightly. Why is that? Because water and oil don’t mix–so you’ll have quite a splattering mess if you get them wet. We dipped the blossoms in a mixture of 2/3 cup flour with 3/4 cup beer. Then we fried them for a few minutes in hot oil (375 degrees F/200 degrees C) for a few minutes. We sprinkled them with salt and paprika…they were luscious!

Last, but not least, are Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta Cheese. I haven’t tried these yet, but I believe this recipe (from the Italian Farmhouse Cookbook) looks very reliable.

Whisk together:

1 C. ricotta
1 egg
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1 small clove or garlic minced
Pinch of nutmeg and salt

Use a pastry bag or teaspoon to place the mixture into the gently opened blossoms. Blossoms vary in size so it’s difficult to say exactly how much you’ll need. Generally you’ll want about 2 T. per blossom.

Dip in a batter (2/3 C. flour with 1 C. seltzer water or beer) and deep fry as above. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy immediately or else keep them warm in a low oven until you’ve fried them all. Anything fried is much better when eaten soon after frying as it doesn’t “hold” well in the oven.

OK, so are you ready to try a few zucchini blossoms? I doubt you’ll find them in the store or the market like I can…but maybe you can get them from your garden, or from a friend or neighbor who never knew what to do with all those lovely yellow flowers growing in his garden!

Even if you don’t have many blossoms, there are lots of recipes using zucchini itself.  Check out my blog for Zucchini Oven Fries and Self-Steamed Zucchini…or Food.com for lots more recipes.

Ciao!

Debbie

2 Comments

  1. 9-16-2013

    Thanks for the info – very useful

  2. 7-15-2015

    The best way to cook zucchini flowers is to bake them. It takes longer than frying but its totally worth it for the flavor.

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