Eat Your Veggies, but Admire Them, Too

Summer squash blossom (Cucurbita spp.)

Our native wildflowers are beautiful, but there’s no need for the flowers of our squash, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant to feel inferior to the Coreopsis and Gaillardia.

During a peach-picking trip to a local farm, I took time to walk the rows of ripening produce and found myself especially charmed by the squash blossoms. They resemble slices of cut cantaloupe: another member of the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family, that will be appearing in farmers’ markets soon, and the flowers themselves are edible.

 

Comments always are welcome.

51 thoughts on “Eat Your Veggies, but Admire Them, Too

    1. These are the flowers of one of my favorite squashes — the yellow summer squash. I prefer the squash itself to the blossoms, but I’ll admire the flowers all day long.

  1. Edible flowers are a bit of an unknown to most people, but I have a friend who routinely decorates the top of a salad with them whenever we have a pot luck event. I have never noticed any distinctive taste to them but they are very attractive. When elderberry flowers are at their peak we gather them, dip them in batter and deep fry them, and smother them in maple syrup. Only once a year do we indulge in this decadence but it is a throwback to my wife’s Mennonite childhood.

    1. The only flowers I’ve eaten more than a few times are borage (sweet flowers and cucumber-like leaves) and yucca flowers, which are a bit sharp and astringent, but make a nice complement to salads. Back in the 1960s, there was a sudden surge of interest in adding flowers like marigolds or violets to ice cubes, but that seems to have faded: or I’m running with a different crowd.

      It’s interesting that you mention elderberry flowers. Steve Schwartzman just posted a photo of those today. Apparently they’re flowering in Austin; maybe he’ll try it, and give us a report. People often batter and fry these squash blossoms, too.

    1. Perhaps they’re trying to pull down some sunshine, or rain — depending on which they need. It wasn’t until tonight that I tried a vertical flip of the image and realized it was reminding me of the old claw-and-ball feet on bathtubs, or pianos, or other furniture.

  2. I’ve never been a fan of squash, but I can’t help wondering if the blossoms might be more appealing to me! They do look like a cantaloupe when it’s sliced open.

    1. Until I took the photos, I’d never noticed that resemblance to cantaloupe, either: the green rind, and pretty orange flesh. Most of the squash blossom recipes I’ve found involve cheese, or batter, or frying, or all three. If you stuff anything with cheese, or batter it and turn it into fritters — well, what could go wrong?

  3. That’s beautiful, Linda. I love edible flowers although even when I have had them served or used them I don’t usually eat them (except nice nasturtiums!). Interesting about the elderberry flowers in David’s comment. I’ve heard of fried squash blossoms too. Yum.

    1. I’d forgotten about nasturtiums. I have seen photos of them used in salads. I don’t know how they’d taste, but they certainly are pretty. I do wonder about frying or sautéing things like squash blossoms. It seems as though the taste of the flower would disappear beneath the batter and such.

    1. I’ve seen it go the other way, too. My grandmother used to plant marigolds around her veggies; she claimed they helped to keep garden pests away. Today, it seems that some farmers are doing that on a grand scale: planting wildflower and native grass margins around their fields to encourage insects that can help to reduce the use of pesticides.

  4. I love summer squash, and roasted fall squash (butternut, acorn, etc.) but don’t think I’ve stopped to admire the blossoms – – these photos are pretty neat! almost looks like they’re going to reach up and grab something

    1. I mentioned to Steve that I came to see them as one half of a ball-and-claw foot, like on pianos or bathtubs. Imagine the claw-like flower turned upside down, then imagine a ball inside it. See?

      I love butternut squash soup, and baked acorn with a filling of raisins, nuts, and chopped apple. I’m not ready to start longing for fall, but when it arrives, those are some things that will make me glad it’s here.

      1. Oh, I do get it. My great-uncle has some old furniture with feet like that, used to kind of spook me when I was a kid.
        I agree, that’s definitely one of the pleasures of fall and cool weather – – delicious soups
        There are a couple of cold soups I like for the summer, but not the same as tucking in to hot soup on a cold day.

        1. I agree completely. There are summer foods and winter foods, and the twain rarely meet. Pot roast is winter; pasta salad’s summer. Ice cream, however, is for every season.

  5. While the flowers of the squash are lovely, as are many vegetables, I’m still caught on your words – peach picking……..
    My favourite fruit, best picked and eaten immediately sitting under the tree, moving only to reach up to pluck another soft ripe juicy fruit of heaven.
    Sigh, memories…..
    Modern peaches in shops are cardboard.
    While I’m not prone to envy, I’ll admit to a little here, as I know Linda you’ll have sought out the real thing.

    1. I do have the real thing available to me, and I was just as happy as you would have been, picking and eating my way through the orchard. Unfortunately, the crop here is finished, but I still can lay my hands on peaches from an orchard about three hours north of here. I’m not going to be able to get any this week, but maybe the week after — the farmers come to town only one day a week, for our farmers’ market.

      As it happens, my next post on The Task at Hand involves peaches more directly. I wish I could send you some to help assuage that envy!

  6. I love the flowers of the pumpkin and they are now part of many a menu in restaurants mixed with other greens. Even the leaves of cauliflowers are perfectly edible. Watch out though for the rhubarb leaves, they are toxic.

    In Indonesia, the flowers and young leaves of the pumpkin are eaten but the fruits are given to animals for feed.

    1. I remember being warned as a child about rhubarb. We used the leaves as umbrellas, but knew never to munch on them.

      Given the way zucchini and yellow squash proliferate, I’m not surprised there would be enough for the animals, or that they’d thrive on them. I’ve known a few pigs who’ve enjoyed cantaloupe and watermelon, as well. The great joke around here is that gardeners will sneak around at midnight, leaving bushel baskets of zucchini on peoples’ doorsteps just to get rid of the things. I do have a recipe for a zucchini chocolate cake: a perfectly wonderful use for a veggie.

  7. We grow both summer squash and zucchini. We’ve also grown acorns and they are wonderful roasted with a bit of brown sugar. We try not to impose our largess on our friends and neighbors but squash plants are so prolific. I know that stuffed squash flowers are very popular with some but have yet to try one…stuffed or as a salad adornment. I like the shape of the clouds in the first. Not exactly like the petal tips but close enough.

    1. I just was telling Gerard about the old trick of leaving bushel baskets of zucchini on peoples’ doorsteps in the dead of night in an attempt to get rid of the stuff. In a good year, it can be a little overwhelming. Tomatoes are something else; I’d never turn down a bushel of tomatoes. Ours are starting to ripen now, and I can’t wait. I like bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, but a tomato sandwich will do just fine.

      I like those clouds, too. I was out early enough that I could keep the sun at my back, and I was pleased with how true the colors are. We’ve had storms roll through the past two nights just before sunset, and tonight’s skies were very nearly the color of the squash blossoms.

    1. I wondered if someone would mention the squash blossom jewelry, and there you are. It is beautiful. I’m a great fan of turquoise and silver generally, and no one does it better than the Navajo.

      We had a sky tonight to go with that luscious pair of blossoms. How about this?

  8. The colours of the squash flowers definitely equal the sunset colours. They are beautiful. I do eat vegetable flowers though most of them are very mild in taste, even tasteless in some cases. With squash or courgettes, it is best to pick the male flowers which are more prolific than the female flowers. Although, if you wanted to reduce your courgette crop, it would be okay to eat as many of the flowers (male and female), as possible, I would think.

    1. I did find one article about ways to prepare the flowers as food that mentioned picking only male flowers in order to increase production of the squash. That made me smile — I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who felt the need to increase production. I was trying to think of other flowers that are used in food and drink, and realized I’d forgotten Lisa’s hibiscus flowers. I think she uses them mostly in tea, but they may play a role in other dishes, too.

        1. I’ve never had hibiscus tea: at least, that I can remember. I know it’s sold in our stores. I’ll have to give it a try. I just read that it’s vaguely cranberry in flavor, and that’s a plus, since I love cranberries.

    1. That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of cooking them together, but it seems like a good idea. I need to see if “my farmer” will allow me to pick some of the flowers to give it a try.

    1. It was great fun to roam the garden, looking at the veggie flowers. Everyone likes flowering fruit trees or berry vines, but I’ve never thought about squash blossoms and such as particularly attractive. I was wrong!

    1. Isn’t it funny how something so common suddenly can appeal in a new way, when we stop to really look at it? I’ve learned that lesson with dandelions and some grasses, but somehow vegetables never caught my attention — until these squash blossoms stopped me in my tracks.

    1. I confess that my first thought on seeing tomato blossoms is, “Yum! BLTs!” but you’re right that the flowers are charming. I’ve always enjoyed okra flowers, too, with their resemblance to the whole variety of mallows. I rarely have seen garden carrot flowers, but their relatives (like Queen Anne’s lace) are especially attractive.

  9. Love this post! I don’t grow veggies anymore (too much shade), but when I did, I never had the heart to cook with the flowers. Just couldn’t do it. Haha

    1. Too much shade brought an end to my plumeria growing, too. As for not cooking the flowers, that brought to mind the line from The Merchant of Venice: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?” After babying and nurturing a plant, having its flower for supper seems — well, a tiny bit mean!

  10. I’ve not tried growing squash here in Poza Honda – usually in high humidity the plants are prone to disease, blights – fungus… but oh, those flowers – just to have the flowers! In Mississippi and Louisiana I enjoyed picking them in the morning and frying them – same with daylily blossoms – not so good for one’s health but oh, so lovely on the plate – like a bronzed tulip!

    Have cleared hurdles this month for new visa application, and now it’s the waiting process… I think the next week will be quiet (Shhhhhh, let’s not jinx that serenity!)

    1. I’ve been thinking about the squash, Lisa. Ours have been growing in 75-90% humidity, give or take. Temperatures during the bulk of their growth have averaged 70-75F at night and 85-90F during the day. I don’t know whether Renee has any special tricks, other than drip irrigation, but the squash are gorgeous, and prolific. If you’re interested, I could ask which variety she’s growing.

      I did find this interesting link about a native Ecuadoran squash found in Guayas and Manabi provinces. It’s apparently disease resistant, and has been used to breed resistance into other squashes.

      It’s good to hear that things are progressing. No, no jinxes! Peace and serenity make waiting easier!

      1. Hey again! I read the comment queue when at home – and enjoyed the comments. I had just brewed fresh hibiscus-blossom tea! The fresh blossoms make an amazing ‘aguita’ that thickens much like okra will thicken a gumbo.. so i use hibiscus blossoms in gumbos and they work well! The petals also make a good salad – so delicate – a little like buttercrunch lettuce.

        I just peeked at the link, and the squash shown is nothing like what I expected to see! It looks like a mini cucumber, and I have seen/tasted this when visiting a friend’s garden. Their cucumbers looked like mini watermelons – the dark green with a little bit of light-colored stripes…

        1. I was surprised by that squash, too. On the other hand, it looks very much like a wild gourd that grows here in Texas,. The wild one I know is about the size of a tennis ball at most, and turns a very pretty yellow in fall. That’s when it get’s noticed. I don’t think anything eats it, because it’s always hanging around on the fence lines, waiting for someone to use it as table decoration.

          I was sure you made hibiscus tea. I’m going to have to give it a try!

    1. I’d never noticed this stage in the flower’s life until I spent some time walking the squash rows, and there they were. When I’ve spent time picking squash, I’ve usually seen more spent blossoms, but of course they’d be more common around the ripe veggies. I’m glad I chose a stage in the flower’s life that you enjoy.

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