Just look at the vivid colors. I don't typically look at a flower and think, "yeah, I want to eat that!", but when I saw these, my mouth started watering! The problem was, I knew nothing about how to do it, and I didn't want to harm the plant by picking the blossoms. My wife would not approve of growing these plants just for the flowers (although after eating the dish below, I think she was pretty close) so I set out to figure out how to do this right. Here's what I found out:
- There are male and female flowers on each plant. The males are more plentiful and grow directly up on a stem. No fruit is produced from these flowers but they are required for pollination so you can't just pick them all either. The females produce the squash and can be picked from the end of the vegetable after it starts growing without harming it. The females obviously are more rare and are also said to taste better. When fried, I really couldn't tell a difference.
- Timing is key with these things. They wilt very quickly on and off the plant, so pick them only when you are ready to cook with them. We've got two plants and they produce a pretty significant amount of flowers so I just pick a few whenever I want to make something.
- They need to be cleaned gently so as not to crush or tear them, especially if you want them whole for frying. I used a wet paper towel to gently wipe them down. Use a sharp knife and gently open it up and cut out the stamen and seeds and remove any bugs or other fun things that may be hiding in there.
I stuffed them with a ricotta and herb mixture but you could really put in any kind of savory cheese mixture and have it turn out pretty good. I would go with more mild flavors so it doesn't overwhelm the flower which should still be the star. You can also just julienne them and saute them with some other vegetables.
Squash Blossoms stuffed with Ricotta and Herbs
6 squash blossoms, cleaned
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
Canola Oil, for frying
Heat a few inches of canola oil in a large pan or deep fryer to 350 degrees.
Combine the ricotta cheese and herbs in a small mixing bowl. Place into a pastry bag or ziplock bag and cut off a small corner.
Carefully place the tip of the bag into the flower and fill each one with cheese mixture. Gently twist the top of the blossoms to help keep them together.
Dredge the filled blossoms in the egg mixture and then coat with flour.
Cook the blossoms in the oil until just golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Season lightly with salt.