Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let Your Love for Food "Blossom"

Seen below are zucchini flowers; more appropriately, zucchini blossoms. They are a delicate ingredient used in Mediterranean cooking.

Many people grow zucchini in their gardens and, often, do not know that the large yellow flowers can be eaten. The zucchini or courgette, as it is known as in other parts of the world, is type of squash.  "Zucca" in Italian or "courge" in French means squash or pumpkin.  Therefore, zucchini and courgette both translate to "little squash".

The zucchini plant grows quite well throughout the spring, summer and autumn in Southern Ontario. The flowers are produced throughout the season.

If you do not have a garden available, I have been able to buy squash flowers from the following places in the Greater Toronto Area:
- farmers markets (e.g. at Metro Hall)
- Chinatown (not in the stores, but from the ladies on the street who sell products from their gardens)
- some grocery stores catering to Italian patrons carry them (depending on availability and demand)

1) Don't be afraid to trim any large or dead leaves from the outside of your zucchini plant. Trimming has proven well for me, as one year I was able to cultivate zucchini flowers up until mid-October.

2) Please note that all squash blossoms are edible and can be used instead of zucchini blossoms.

3) When picking squash blossoms, do so only in the morning when the flowers are open. Flower-loving insects, including beetles and bees, love the environment and often become entrapped when the flowers close later in the day.

When cleaning the yellow blossoms, wash them thoroughly inside and out.  Make sure they dry well, especially if you decide to fry them.  Not doing so will cause your oil to splash and sputter, potentially creating a cooking/burn hazard (I speak from experience).

Remove the bottom ends of the flowers, by pinching gently. The stamen/pistol should remove easily.  Also, remove the slender needle-like leaves at the base of the flowers. Please see below for picture.

Once clean and dry, they are ready for use.

Traditional Recipe: Zucchini Blossom Fritters
- Create a simple batter by combining approximately 1/2 - 3/4 cup of white flour, one egg, a pinch of salt and water
- The batter should be the consistency of pancake batter
- Coat your cleaned zucchini blossoms with a small amount of batter
- Fry* in a skillet, using a medium to high heat, until golden brown

*For optimal flavour, I have found that the best oil to use is an unrefined sunflower oil.  This oil is not chemically processed in any way and, as you can see below, it has a bright golden colour.  The taste is nutty, exactly like the sunflower seeds it is made from.  I buy this type of oil at a local Russian market in North York, Ontario.  Similar markets catering to Eastern Europeans have many comparable products.

Example of unrefined sunflower oil

Variations for Zucchini Blossom Fritters:
- stuff the blossoms with ricotta cheese
- stuff the blossoms with either a piece of mozzarella cheese or an anchovy, or both
- add Romano or Parmesan cheese to the batter
- use sparkling water instead of still water, in your batter, to make the coating crispy
- use cold water or keep the batter cold with ice, as an alternative way to make the coating crispy
- add a small amount of baking powder to the batter to make the coating fluffy
- use white wine or sparkling wine in the batter to add a little "je ne sais quoi"
- omit the egg for a vegan-friendly option

Here are some other uses for this ingredient:
- add a layer of zucchini blossoms to a vegetable lasagna
- make a zucchini blossom frittata or omelette
- use the flowers as a pizza topping
- mulch the blossoms, as seen below, and add to a soup or stew

Whoa!  Hidden Ingredient Alert!  Two Ingredients in One!

Do not throw away any stems or buds.  These parts of the plant are also edible and, by the way, taste amazing!  Chop up any light green, tender stems, buds, and leaves and add them to a soup, stew or chili.  Only use very small leaves, up to the size of a nickel. These parts of the plant are traditionally used at the end of the growing season and added to the best tasting minestrone you will ever try. If you cannot use the stems, etc. right away, they freeze very well.


  1. Zucchini flowers are amazing!! I use the stems and buds when making the "pancakes". I also add finely chopped zucchini to my batter mix for additional flavour.

    I also use the stalks of the zucchini plant; peel back the spiny part of the stalk; peels easily, like cerlery; i use it to make a fabulous soup with white kidney beans and garlic and olive oil. Yum!!!!!

  2. I have to try this soup recipe. It sounds so good! Thanks Zia!

  3. let me know how it comes out. i also add a few chili peppers for a bit of a zing.

  4. Wow, what a great blog! I have only been able to seriously get back into gardening in the last couple of years and now luckily have the space and time to grow (and eat) whatever I can here (Southern Tasmania). I'm always looking for new recipes (particularly simple ones) and interesting info about edible plants (I also found your page about Panisse fascinating) so thank you, Asif! :)

    1. Hi CygnetBurger! Thanks for the great comment. It's always nice to get a little encouragement. I'm glad you're liking the blog. Thank you for reading!