Saturday, September 25, 2010

zucchini blossoms

The last few days have been really good cleanup days in the garden. I've been ripping out wheelbarrow loads full of old plants that I worked so hard to cultivate just a few short months ago...and so the cycle goes....
As I cleaned up some of my summer squash and zucchini patches I was reminded of how much I've enjoyed having the tiny baby squashes and beautiful blossoms this year. The blossoms were a really fun and delicious summer time treat, stuffed and fried.

If you're growing some of your own food, this could be something fun to plan for next summer when those super abundant zucchini plants are producing....or maybe your plants still have a few blooms on them now.....

For a simple stuffing, I'll often use feta or ricotta cheese or a mixture of both, any green herbs I have in the garden...I think this pic is with basil and nasturtium leaves and some red nasturtium flower for the colour.....mix in a little olive oil....easy, yum!

Before I stuff the flower with the cheese mixture, I remove the pistil/stamen from the center.
Then I twirl the petals togather and cover it with a light tempura batter and fry. So good....another special taste of summer...seems so gourmet and yet so simple when you grow your own.

My favourite zucchini to grow for the blossoms is called "Costata Romanesco". It's helpful to know that the squash plant produces some female flowers and some male flowers. This is what a female flower looks like inside.

And a female flower has a little baby squash attached to it, like this one.

The male flower has no baby squash attached to it....

....and it looks like this inside.

When a pollinator insect, like for example, a bee comes to the squash patch, it will buzz from male to female flower, transferring pollen from the inside of the male flower to the female flower so it's little fruit will set.
Just one reason why it's so important to encourage bees in the garden! No bees, no food.
If a female flower isn't pollinated (and this has to happen during the one day that it's open) the flower will close and the little fruit on the end will wither and shrivel up. So if you see this happening on your squash plant, that's probably why and you will have to be the bee....

Lucky for me, I have lots of bees in my garden (and other pollinators too) so I have a lot of female squash blossoms with tiny zucchinis attached to use for stuffing while I also have lots to leave on the plant with the males to grow into larger zucchinis. The bees will do their work.
When you're harvesting the flowers for eating, it's really important to remember to leave enough male and female flowers on the plant for pollination and larger zucchinis, if you want some of those too!

I use more of the male flowers for stuffing and they're mostly what's available at the markets. There are usually many more male flowers than female flowers on a plant, so this works out my experience, they're the first flowers to appear, too......

Here are some that I saw at a farmer's market last year. All packaged up for sale. I'm really looking forward to having these available for my customers next year!

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