I remember the first time I ate a fried zucchini blossom. It was an explosion of flavors: slightly sweet (almost like shrimp), a little crunchy, and something I’d describe as sunshine and happiness in the form of food. I can’t get enough of these things.
This year we are growing our own zucchini and they’re super easy. I’ve learned a lot. Here are 5 fun facts about zucchini blossoms.
ONE: zucchini blossoms have a gender
The one we eat is the male blossom. It is a flower that comes directly from the plant, with a long (delicious) stem. It’s only function is to provide pollen to fertilize the female blossom, which is the one that gives life to the zucchini. In fact the female blossom is attached to the tail-end of the zucchini.
TWO: you only get a lot of flowers in the beginning
So if you think about the whole “i’m here to fertilize” thing it makes sense. The plant produces a lot of male blossoms as it is growing and starting to produce the first zucchini (and probably when bees are not as active yet), but then as you get plants filled with zucchini you start to have a lot less flowers. With 6 plants we had an average of 8-12 blossoms per day in the first few weeks, but now that we are getting 3-4 big zucchini a day we only get 1-2 blossoms. So don’t miss out on the early ones.
THREE: love them just the way they are
I was once told you had to get your fingers inside the blossoms and pick out the stamen and pollen without breaking the flower (impossible for anyone but a nible-fingered elf!!!), and pick off the little green tendrils (sepals) from the outside base of the flower. I did that for years thinking that’s what the Italians do… but then I learned it’s all bull. Not only because it’s an unnecessary waste of time, but also because these are the most delicious parts!
Speaking of the most delicious parts, please, please do not throw away the stem. Zucchini blossoms must be eaten with your fingers, and the stem is the handle, and thus also the yearned for last bite. The stem adds amazing flavor and complexity when minced and sauteed too.
FOUR: pick them early in the morning
By mid-morning the flowers will have closed, twisting their delicate petals around the tip. If you want to stuff them, then you definitely want to pick them when they are open, put the stems in water and keep them in a dark room. The gorgeous open blooms lasts just a day, but they’ll still be edible (though closed) on the second day.
FIVE: a little goes a long way… but there are never enough.
Until I started growing my own I thought that you either stuffed them to be roasted or sauteed or you batter fried them…and both options are pretty time consuming (but worth it). So I didn’t make zucchini blossoms more than once or twice a year.
But my recent revelation is that even with 1 or 2 flowers you can transform a dish. Think of … panfried and placed on top of a plate of pasta cacio e pepe, or just simple pasta with olive oil and pargmigiano…. minced and sauteed in olive oil with breadcrumbs to place on top of a tomato (raw or baked)…sauteed with a white onion as the base for a simple egg frittata… topping off a white pizza… I’m getting hungry, so I’d better stop there.
I’ve never seen left-over zucchini blossoms. So if you can, get a lot. And if you only have a few, just use them right.