We are, of course, talking about squash blossoms.
The flowering delicacies are only available during these hot summer months, and they can be lost in the crowds of green and yellow zucchinis piling up in gardens and at local farmer’s markets.
Liz Neumark, the head of Great Performances event planners, says squash, particularly zucchini, can overwhelm a garden, and that picking the blossoms can help curb a crop.
It’s the female blossom that produces the vegetable though, so if you're planning to practice birth control, make sure you know how to tell the difference.
(The male blossom has a longer stem right under the flower, the female blossom has a tiny would-be squash bulb underneath its blossom. When you look inside the blossoms, you’ll see a stamen inside the male flower, which you won’t find in the female flower.)
For those of us not growing zucchini at home, Neumark has a few tips on what to look for when buying them. She advises asking when they were harvested. “They don’t have a long life after they’ve been picked,” she says, so it's best to purchase ones that haven’t been stored for more than four days. Neumark says they run, on average, about four blossoms for a dollar.
The question remains: Are we only eating them because we can?
Neumark admits their flavor is subtle, and that, unlike other edible flowers, like nasturtium, their taste doesn’t make a strong impression. "Once you stuff them with a ricotta filing, dredge them in flour and fry them in oil…you’re really tasting a bunch of other flavors, and not really the zucchini blossom. But it’s a beautiful vehicle."
Summer Squash Salad with Whipped Ricotta and Fried Squash Blossom
1. Using a mandolin set to 1/8 ", julienne squash and zucchini, combine in bowl with chopped herbs, set aside.
2.In a food processor, combine ricotta, mascarpone and nutmeg and whip until smooth consistency, season with salt and pepper.
3. Dredge squash blossoms with flour, and fry lightly in 350 degree oil, drain and season with salt and pepper.
4.To assemble, dress squash and herbs with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and divide between 6 bowls.
5. Dollop a few teaspoons of whipped ricotta on salad and top with fried squash blossom, grate a scat amount of lemon zest to finish.