Have squash vines taken over your late-summer garden? Do you have dozens of new blooms late in the growing season? It may be too late for those flowers to develop into fruits, but that doesn’t mean they have to go to waste. Squash blossoms are edible and can be incorporated into a delicious harvest dinner.
As summer winds down and we begin to harvest from our gardens, it’s a wonderful chance to invite your friends and family to share in your bounty. Sharing a home-cooked meal is a gift in itself, and is so meaningful when you include loved ones. Squash blossoms are the right flower to add an exotic flair to your autumn dinner party.
Edible squash flowers are found on all members of the squash family, including summer and winter squash, zucchini and pumpkins. These blooms are usually bright yellow or orange, and shaped like a large trumpet. Squash flowers often last only one day before wilting on the vine, so plan accordingly when you’re using them as the star of your harvest dinner.
Squash blossoms are loaded with calcium and iron, and are also high in vitamins A and C. They have a high water content and are quite low in calories and carbohydrates. The flavor of squash blossoms is reminiscent of the squash itself, but more mild.
Most grocers don’t sell squash flowers because they have such a short shelf life. Luckily, they are quite plentiful in the garden. When choosing blossoms from your garden, be sure to choose the ones that are unblemished and firm. Also be sure they don’t have any chemicals or pesticides on them, as these may not rinse off totally.
Squash and pumpkin flowers are often chopped up and used in salads as a colorful accent. They would be delicious accompanied by a sprinkling of toasted or spiced pumpkin seeds on top of the salad. Squash blossoms can be used in place of greens such as kale and spinach, and make a healthful addition to soups as well.
Because of their long, narrow shape, squash flowers can be stuffed and baked, as you would prepare a stuffed pepper. Popular fillings include grains, cheeses, such as herb-seasoned ricotta, and diced meats like pancetta or bacon. Take care when stuffing the flowers, as they are much more fragile than a pepper. If a petal tears a bit when you stuff the flower, don’t worry. The finished dish will still be tasty.
Squash blossoms are also a crowd-pleaser when dipped in batter and deep-fried. Yes, this negates their health benefits, but it’s OK to splurge since they’re only available for a short time each year. Any batter recipe that you have can be used on squash flowers. Batters containing beer are a popular choice, and work well if your harvest dinner has an Oktoberfest theme.
Gifting a portion of our harvest to others is a tradition that has continued for thousands of years. When you’re giving away bushels of squash to your family and friends, remember to also give a gift of the edible squash flowers to share in the beautiful bounty of your garden.