Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Now is the time of year when I have so many zucchini flowers I hardly know what to do with them. Every few years I rotate my garden location and this year my zucchini flowers are so beautiful and so enormous I had to photograph them. Here's a close-up picture of one of the flowers that is just as long as the zucchini itself; about 9 or 10 inches long!
Zucchinis produce prolifically all spring, summer and fall to the point that they're almost as invasive and hearty as a weed. At least in this climate. The zucchini I grow are the Romanesco variety; the skin of the fruit is a paler green and is ridged.
All summer long the garden is a hotbed of plant sexuality and it's most easy to see at work with the zucchini. The plant produces two types of flowers: male and female. Both have nectar, but only the male flower has pollen. At the base of the female flower is a small fruit (vegetable) or ovary. Only one male flower is necessary to pollinate numerous female flowers. Once pollination takes place the female flower closes up, to avoid cross-pollination. Sometimes zucchini fruit will start growing and then stop; this occurs when pollination (fertilization) is inadequate. All this takes place thanks to the symbiotic relationship between the honey bee and the flower.
Below is a picture of a zucchini flower's pistil (female); the male (stamen) is covered in pollen. When cooking remove these as they add an unpleasant flavor to your dish. For a funny rendition of just what this bad taste experience can entail check out the Stoveria blog!
Anyhow, the pistil is nestled deep inside the flower below:
Zucchini flowers (and any squash flowers actually) can be used in a multitude of ways. I love stuffing them and frying them. The flowers should be fried just long enough to become crisp, but not yet golden. This way you can still see the beautiful green and orange of the flower when they are served. The ones below are almost done:
The great thing about the zucchini flower is that it's the perfect case for just about any kind of stuffing. Last night I used different kinds of cheeses with prosciutto. The classic Italian stuffing is mozzarella cheese and anchovies. If you use a pastry bag it's also easy to stuff the flowers with creamier cheese fillings or something more adventurous like guacamole or baked, spicy eggplant.
I like a light, airy tempura-style batter so I prepare a batter with yeast, flour and water. I make the batter just thick enough so it will lightly coat the stuffed flower. Once you've prepared the batter let it sit an hour or so until it becomes very light and airy. When you dip the flower in the batter make sure the flower is totally coated so that no oil penetrates the flower. It helps to twist the flower tip a little so your filling doesn't fall out.
Zucchini flowers can be stored fresh for up to a week. As soon as you pick them gently rinse them off, inside and out. Shake off the excess water and line dry for an hour or so on a dish towel. Lay the flowers on several layers of paper towels inside a sealed plastic container and refrigerate.
Posted by Flavor of Italy at 7:59 AM