We’re coming to the end of summer, but there is still another week or two to enjoy the last squash blossoms of the season before the cold weather sets in. Fiori di zucca, as they are known in Italian, can be picked from almost any variety of squash including summer varieties like zucchini and yellow squash, and thick-skinned varieties like butternut and acorn. Some varieties of squash produce larger, stronger flowers, and some produce tiny, more delicate ones, but most Italian gardeners aren’t picky about which ones they eat.
Picking Squash Blossoms: During the summer, most gardeners pick only the male flowers which sit up on long, straight, narrow stems. Female flowers have shorter, rounder stems and are left on the plant because, once they are pollinated, they will develop into squash. As winter approaches though, many gardeners also pick the female flowers and their tiny squash-stems if they think the squash won’t have enough time to mature before cold weather kills the plant. Whether you are picking male or female flowers, you should cut them at their prime in the early part of the day before the heat wilts them and they close.
Here are a few recipes to try once you have picked some blossoms:
Rufina’s whole fried flowers
When we went to visit the garden of Tony Ranieri in Staten Island, we found his wife Rufina busy picking squash blossoms to fry for dinner. We caught this video of her explaining how she prepares her blossoms.
Like many of the recipes we get from Italian cooks and gardeners, Rufina’s recipe doesn’t give any measurements, but if you feel you need to follow a more precise, step-by-step recipe try this one which is adapted from Rufina’s method.
About 15 whole zucchini flowers, rinsed
1 cup water
1 cup flour
1 clove garlic, minced
3 small mint leaves, minced
Oil for frying
Crack the egg into a large bowl and beat together with the water. Add the flour little by little until you have a batter that is the consistency of heavy cream. Mix in the garlic and mint leaves. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Grab the flowers by the stem-end, and dip them into the batter, coating completely. Let the excess batter drip off and then fry the flowers in the hot oil for about 1 minute on each side, until they are golden brown. Remove the flowers from the oil and let them drain on a paper towel or paper bag. Season with salt while they are still hot. Let cool for a minute then serve.
Fritelle di zucchine alla calabrese – Calabrese style zucchini fritters
This recipe, and variations of it, is common among the Calabrese community of Sewickley, Pennsylvania.
1 large zucchini
4 cups zucchini flowers (washed and chopped)
¼ cup chopped basil
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
¼ cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
Oil for frying
Thinly slice the zucchini on the side of a box grater or a mandolin. Toss the zucchini with a teaspoon of salt and place the zucchini in a colander with a weight on top to press out their liquid (a can of tomato sauce on a plate works well for this). Allow the zucchini to stand for 1 hour, then rinse and drain. Squeeze the zucchini a handful at a time to remove excess water. Put the squeezed zucchini in a large bowl and mix in 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, the cheese, basil and parsley. Add enough flour to make the batter the consistency of pancake batter. Fold in the zucchini flowers.
Heat several inches of oil in a pan. Spoon in about 1 tablespoon of batter at a time, and press to flatten in the oil. Fry on each side until crisp and golden.
Tommasina’s Zucchini Breakfast Casserole
For something decidedly Italian American try this delicious casserole. We love that Italian gardeners are so unpretentious they use Bisquick with their home grown, organic vegetables. We can see why – this casserole is delicious. Trust us, everyone will want this recipe.
1 cup Bisquick
½cup olive oil
3 cups diced zucchini
3 cups washed and chopped zucchini flowers
½ cup parmesan or romano cheese
1 small onion, diced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil and or parsley
½ green pepper , diced
Mix together all the ingredients, except the blossoms. When everything is evenly mixed and incorporated gently fold-in the blossoms. Spread the batter evenly in a greased 9 by 12 inch casserole pan. Bake at 350˚ for 45 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.