By Himanee Gupta
We know the jokes about zucchini: If you leave your car doors unlocked, you might come back and find your back seat filled with them.
But the flowers from zucchini and other squash plants are a different story. Brilliantly yellow, they are just as tasty and versatile as the fruits they produce.
At Leaning Birch Farm, Dan, Rose, and Nic Fera have made squash flowers a seasonal staple.
“Last year, people kept asking us about the blossoms,” says Rose. “We only had a few, and they sold so fast.”
Over the winter, Dan did some research and found a zucchini variety known for producing more male than female flowers. Flowers produce fruits but only if they are female and have been pollinated by their male counterparts. Once the pollination is done, male flowers are best picked off so the plants can focus on producing fruits.
“We ordered the seeds, and planted a row,” Rose says. “They produce flowers like crazy.”
Now clamshell boxes filled with them sit stacked at the Leaning Birch stall, along with some boxes of female flowers with baby zucchini attached. The boxes sell fast.
Rose picks zucchini flowers early each morning. The blossoms from this variety, she says, are bigger and firmer, making them much easier to cook.
“The easiest way is to dip them in a light batter and fry them,” says Rose.
Another way, says her son Nic, is to create simple ricotta cheese filling with herbs and a tempura-like batter of flour, cornstarch, and cold water. Dip the stuffed flowers in the batter and deep fry.
I tried it. The outcome was delicious – and my kitchen a mess.
“Experiment,” urges Rose. “Use your imagination.”
I mixed fresh oregano and minced garlic into the ricotta and filled the flowers. I lightly coated a baking dish with olive oil and rolled the flowers in it. They roasted in a 350F oven for about 12 minutes while I snacked on some chard I had roasted in the same dish beforehand. I arranged the blossoms over the chard and sliced up a fresh tomato. I had a meal full of color and one baking dish to clean.
Rose suggests tearing up the flowers and tossing them into salads, topping pizzas, creating a soup, scrambling them with eggs or adding them to pancake batter.
The flowers are likely to remain plentiful at the Saratoga Farmers Market for a couple more weeks.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. at High Rock Park. Find us online at saratogafarmersmarket.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.