If you’ve planted zucchini in your garden this year, you’ve no doubt noticed the beautiful orange and yellow flowers growing next to (and on) the fruit. The flowers are edible and beautiful, with a pleasant and fresh flavor reminiscent of zucchini, only a little more herbaceous and (obviously) floral. You can shred the flowers and sprinkle them on salads and pizzas, fold them into quesadillas, or toss them into egg dishes. Most people stuff them with cheese and fry them, which is a great idea, but I recently stuffed mine with leftover takeout.
As mushrooms and baked potatoes, zucchini blossoms are a fantastic vehicle for pretty much any last food you have in a take out box. I recently stuffed a few flowers with leftover grated garlic pork and cold frozen bulgogi cheese fries, and both were pretty good.
How to pick zucchini flowers
If you buy the flowers in the store, make sure they are bright and orange, with vibrant, not faded petals. If you harvest them from your garden, pick them in the morning when they are fully open and harvest only the male flowers.
It is quite easy to distinguish the male flowers from the female flowers. The male flowers grow on a stalk, which is long and slender, and the females grow on the zucchini itself, which can look like a chubby stalk if the fruit is young enough. Male flowers also have a single cone-shaped stamen in the middle of the flower, where the female flowers have a stigma, which looks like a tuft of tiny, bumpy fingers.
Collect the male flowers by cutting them off from the plant, taking about an inch of stem with the flower. Don’t take them all; leave a few so that they can pollinate the female flowers, otherwise you will have no more zucchini.
How to prepare and eat zucchini flowers
The sooner you eat the flowers, the better they will taste, but you can preserve them by wrapping them in a damp paper towel, sealing them in a freezer bag, and placing them in your crisper.
When you are ready to eat the flowers, clean them by stirring them gently in a bowl of cold water, then hang them to dry on paper towels. Remove the stamen by carefully opening the petals of the flower and pinching it with your fingers. Don’t panic if you tear the flower a bit – you’re about to cook and eat it – but try to minimize the damage as much as possible.
You can now shred and sprinkle the flowers on pasta, salads, pizza, or grilled meat, or you can sauté them in butter for a simple summer treat. As I mentioned earlier, however, I like to stuff them with leftover food.
How to stuff and fry zucchini flowers
First of all, you will need to decide what you are going to stuff them with. Cheese is a very popular option, and it’s a perfect opportunity to take out your food processor and do some Strong Cheese with all the pieces and leftovers you have lying around. Leftovers will work, however, as long as it can be finely chopped and stuffed into a flower. Leftover cheese fries are exceptionally delicious – cheese and potatoes combine to form a carbon fat mass – but you can also use fried rice, noodle dishes, mashed potatoes, little does matter! All is well! Go down in your refrigerator and chop everything until it is fine enough to make a flower.
Then you will need to choose a paste. This one from Bon Appetit is very simple and works well, but you should feel free to riffle on it and add some parmesan, pepper or MSG. Also, don’t think too much about what’s called “batter”. I recently made one by adding water to a cup of self-rising flour until it was smooth (a few lumps are enough) and just thick enough to coat a piece of food, then I added about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and many MSG shakes. It worked wonderfully and tasted great.
Pour a few inches of oil into a high-sided pan, Dutch oven, or stainless steel pot and bring it to 350 ℉. Fill the flowers as completely as possible without tearing the flower and gently twist the end to (sort of) seal the whole thing. Don’t worry if small pieces of stuffing stick out, the dough will keep things together.
Dip the stuffed flowers in the dough and allow the excess to drain, then place them in the oil and fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Work in batches to keep plenty of space between the flowers so that they cook evenly. Once they are golden and crisp, remove them from the oil with a spider or a skimmer and place them on paper towels to drain them. Serve and enjoy immediately, with or without a dip.