Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Squash Blossoms

If any food can be described as ephemeral, it's squash blossoms.  They're only around for a short while, and once picked they deteriorate rapidly, which is why you usually can't get them at grocery stores, only farmers' markets and neighbourhood gardens.

Squash plants actually produce two different types of flowers: male and female.  The male flowers grow on the end of long, slender stems.  The female flowers grow on thicker stems that buldge where they meet the flower.  This bulge is what will eventually become a squash.

Generally there are more male flowers than female.  The male flowers can be picked without affecting the production of fruit, so long as a few are left behind to pollinate the females.  Some sources say to remove the stamens from the interior of the male flowers before eating.  I don't.  I hope it's not a safety thing.  Picking the female flowers will prevent fruit from developing on that stem.  Even so, it's worth picking a few females, especially once the buldge on the stem has grown into a tiny, malformed squash.

The flowers of both summer and winter squash are edible.  (Summer squash are varieties that are picked young, and therefore have tender, edible seeds and skin, like zucchinis and pattypans.  Winter squash are varieties that are mature when picked, and therefore have tough, inedible seeds and skin, like butternut squash and pumpkins.)

While they can be eaten raw, squash blossoms are usually lightly battered and fried.  They can also be stuffed.

Below are two blossoms from a pattypan plant.  The flower at the back is female, as you can see from the small, green pattypan attached to the base.  The front flower is male, with the characteristic long, slender stem.

The blossoms are filled with a homemade ricotta (something my ancestors would have called "clabbered milk") mixed with lemon zest, lemon juice, an egg, and basil.  I used a piping bag to stuff the flowers.

The batter is just skim milk thickened with a bit of flour.  Tempura-style batter is also popular.  The flowers are lightly coated with the batter, then fried in canola oil at 350F.  You can shallow fry in a straight-sided pan (just add enough oil to come about half way up the side of the flowers) or deep fry in a pot.  Once the batter is crisp and the interior hot, maybe one minute, remove the flowers to a bowl lined with paper towel.  Season and consume immediately.

August on a plate:


  1. I;m so excited to see posts on button soup again.
    Where did you get your pattypan squash blossom? That isn't from your backyard is it?

  2. This post was so informative! I was wondering why my volunteer squash plants seemed to have 2 different kinds of blossoms, and I was too lazy to look into it. Imagine my luck! A post that answers my questions AND tells me to eat the male flowers! Good one.

  3. Judy - the pattypan isn't from our backyard, it's from an Edmonton gardener who grows fro Jack's. The picture of the flower at the top is from our backyard, and come to to think of it, I don't know what variety of squash it is...

    Hi Mary - For the longest time I wasn't sure what was up with the two different blooms, and whether picking them curtailed fruit production. I only looked it up like five minutes before I wrote the post. Glad it was helpful!