If you planted zucchini in your garden this year, you have no doubt noticed the beautiful orange and yellow blossoms that grow alongside (and on) the fruit. The flowers are edible and beautiful, with a pleasant, fresh flavour that’s reminiscent of zucchini, only a little bit more herbal and (obviously) floral. You can shred the blossoms and sprinkle them over salads and pizzas, fold them into quesadillas, or mix them into egg dishes. Most people stuff them with cheese and fry them, which is a very good idea, but I’ve recently been stuffing mine with leftover takeout.
Like mushrooms and baked potatoes, zucchini blossoms are a fantastic vehicle for pretty much any last little bit of food you have hanging out in a takeout box. I recently stuffed a few flowers with leftover shredded garlic pork and cold, congealed bulgogi cheese fries, and both were pretty excellent.
How to pick zucchini blossoms
If you’re buying the flowers in the store, make sure they are bright and orange, with un-wilted, vibrant-looking petals. If you are harvesting them from your garden, pick them in the morning when they are fully open, and only collect the male blossoms.
It’s pretty easy to tell the male flowers from the female. The male flowers grow on a stem, which is long and slender, and the females grow on the zucchini itself, which can look like a chubby stem if the fruit is quite young. Male flowers also have single, cone-shaped stamen in the middle of flower, where female blossoms have a stigma, which looks like a clump of tiny, bumpy fingers.
Collect the male flowers by snipping them off the plant, taking about an inch of stem with the flower. Don’t take all of them; leave a few behind so they can pollinate the female flowers, otherwise you won’t get any more zucchini.
How to prepare and eat zucchini blossoms
The sooner you eat the flowers, the better they will taste, but you can store them by wrapping them in a damp paper towel, sealing them in a freezer bag, and placing them in your crisper drawer.
When you’re ready to eat the flowers, clean them by gently swishing them around in a bowl of cold water, then set them on paper towels to dry. Remove the stamen by carefully opening up the petals of the blossom and pinching it off with your fingers. Don’t panic if you tear the flower a little — you’re about to cook and eat it — but try to minimise the damage as much as you can.
You can now shred and sprinkle the blossoms over pasta, salads, pizza, or grilled meat, or you can sauté them in some butter for a simple summer treat. As I mentioned earlier, though, I like to stuff them with leftover food.
How to stuff and fry zucchini blossoms
First, you’ll need to decide what you’re going to stuff them with. Cheese is a very popular option, and this is a perfect opportunity to bust out your food processor and make some fromage fort with whatever bits and scraps you have lying around. Any leftover will work, however, provided it can be finely chopped and stuffed into a flower. Leftover cheese fries are exceptionally delicious — the cheese and potato meld to form a fatty, carby mass — but you can also use fried rice, noodle dishes, mashed potatoes, whatever! All are good! Raid your fridge and chop it all up until it’s fine enough to stuff into a flower.
Next, you’ll have to decide on a batter. This one from Bon Appetit is very simple and works well, but you should feel free to riff on it, and add parmesan, or pepper, or MSG. Also, don’t overthink this thing called “batter.” I recently made one by adding water to a cup of self-rising flour until it was smoothish (a few lumps are ok) and just thick enough to coat a piece of food, then added about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and many shakes of MSG. It worked beautifully and tasted great.
Pour a few inches of oil into a high-walled pan, Dutch oven, or stainless steel pot, and bring it to 180C Stuff the flowers as full as you can without tearing the blossom, and gently twist the end to (sort of) seal it all up. Don’t worry if little bits of stuffing are sticking out, the batter will keep things together.
Dip the stuffed blossoms in the batter and let the excess drip off, then place them in the oil and fry for a couple of minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Work in batches to keep plenty of space between blossoms so they fry evenly. Once they’re golden and crispy, remove them from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to drain. Serve and enjoy immediately, with or without dipping sauce.
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