When I saw the first bright yellow blossoms among the still sparse greenery of my garden, I was ecstatic. So far my garden has only produced several different kinds of lettuces, and a few radishes, but nothing else! Thanks to a very late spring, my peas and fava beans (the first vegetables to ripen in this area) are just beginning to flower now, a month behind – I'm not sure whether I'll ever harvest them at all, as it's now getting too hot for them to thrive. These yellow blossoms mean the beginning of some serious harvesting in the garden, and we celebrated their arrival with two zucchini dishes, of which the blossoms were the key ingredient.
If you grow your own zucchini plants, make sure to harvest the blossoms too, which are considered a real delicacy here in Italy. They're hard to find in stores, because they wilt in no time at all, and their paper-thin petals tear easily. It's best to pick them early in the morning, and use them the same day: zucchini blossoms are quintessential local, seasonal and fresh produce.
Preparing zucchini blossoms
Pick zucchini blossoms early in the morning, when they are fully open. You can use both the male zucchini blossoms, which grow on a stem, and the female blossoms, which grow at the end of the zucchini. Gently remove any bugs. Keep the male zucchini blossoms in water in a vase, like any other flower, and the female flowers in the fridge, on a damp paper towel in an air tight container. Cook the flowers as soon as possible, as they spoil easily.
Before cooking, remove the stem and the inside of the flower with the point of a knife (see photo).
Fried Zucchini Blossoms
Fried zucchini blossoms make a delicious hors d'oeuvre: the fresh, moist, slightly sweet petals inside, with the hot, crispy batter on the outside. A real summer treat!
To make them, first prepare a light beer batter. There are many ways of making it, and thousands of recipes online. My favorite is traditional and very simple: mix about 250 grams of white flour and a pinch of salt with cold beer (or fizzy water) until your batter gets thick but still pourable (about 200 ml of beer). Coat the prepared blossoms in the batter, and fry in hot oil on both sides until crisp and golden, which usually takes only a couple of minutes. Serve hot.
We used our first zucchini to make a frittata (omelette). I often make frittate in summer, mixing in whatever ingredients the garden has to offer on that day, to the basic frittata recipe: eggs, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a dash of milk.
In this case, I first lightly cooked the grated zucchini together with some baby chard leaves, garlic, marjoram and summer savory. Then I added the rest of the basic frittata ingredients. Finally, halfway through cooking, I placed zucchini petals on top of the frittata, making a decorative and delicious topping.
For more on how we use zucchini blossoms and zucchini in my part of the world, see my Zucchini Time post over at my blog.