Flowers for Dinner


zucchini blossoms

It’s been a disappointing zucchini year. Nothing like last year’s plenty that left me begging for mercy. But that’s okay. My dad sent me packing back in June with a bag full and my local farmers market tables are groaning with zukes. I feel certain that if I asked around, a few of you might have an extra squash or two to spare.

And here’s the thing about zucchini … as long as you’ve got plants, even if they’re not doing much, they’re still growing flowers. Flowers that make the bees happy. And flowers that make a delicious delicacy when stuffed and fried. Serve them with a little herby pasta or maybe a salad (here’s my latest, favoritest dressing recipe) and you’ve got flowers for dinner. How cool is that?

salad with flowers

A few years ago I wrote a story about edible flowers and ever since I’ve been much quicker to see flowers as food and much braver about actually putting them on my plate. Arugula and chive flowers are now regular additions to my salads — they make for yet another layer of flavor, texture and visual pop that I just love. I’ve planted several pineapple sage plants (alas, our winters are too cold for them to survive as a perennial) for the simple joy of walking outside and gobbling those fiery red flowers. (If you’ve never foraged pineapple sage flowers, add it to your bucket list. They look like little red petals but they taste Just. Like. Pineapple. It’s hard to wrap your head around.)

It was that 2014 summer that I tried my first fried zucchini blossoms. I couldn’t believe how tasty they were. And forgiving. I thought wrestling those big fragile blooms would be a nightmare. But it’s really not. I pick my blossoms in the morning when they are fresh and newly opened. There are typically honey bees in every one of them, so watch out for that. Then I set them in a pie plate, cover them and stick them in the fridge. The flowers contract a little in the chill, but that only makes them easier to stuff.

I’ve tried several recipes over the years and I’m giving you what I think is the best of what’s out there. I stuff with a mix of cream cheese and feta, with some basil and chives stirred in. Then I dredge the stuffed blossoms in egg and flour and lightly fry in a high-heat oil (peanut worked well this go ’round). The tang of the cheese and herbs marries with the crunch of the petals for such a satisfying bite. (My recipe is here.)

And in case your zucchini plants are burying you in stacks of squash, here are my top ways to make them disappear: zucchini feta pancakes, zucchini Parmesan crisps, blueberry zucchini muffins, classic zucchini bread, lemon zucchini bread and, last but certainly not least, a decadent chocolate zucchini cake.

Don’t forget, it’s easy to grate and freeze even the most over-grown zuke. Then you can nosh on all these delicious dishes in January when you’d give almost anything for a homegrown veggie.

What about you? Ever tried eating your zucchini blossoms? What’s your favorite way to fix them?