Just about every year I've been working, Sandy, one of our Master Gardeners, brings in squash blossoms around the office. He has offered them to me in the past, but I've never cooked with them before and never took him up the offer. This year, I was ready to explore how to clean, prepare, and cook with these edible flowers from Sandy's cushaw squash plant.
- Buy: Shoppers are not likely to find squash blossoms in grocery stores. Some vendors at farmers markets may carry them. Otherwise, you can pick them off your own plants or find someone who will share them with you.
- Harvest: Sandy shared he picks male blossoms early in the morning when the flowers are open. As the day warms, the blossoms will start to close. This can be fine for some recipes, but will make stuffing the blossoms trickier if that is your plan. If planning to stuff the blossoms, leave a few inches of stem to make handling easier. Also, be sure to check for and remove any squash bees or other insects before bringing blossoms inside.
- Store: Sandy places unwashed blossoms between a layer of paper towels inside a ziptop bag. Push out excess air and refrigerate until ready to use. Use blossoms the same day they were picked, or within a few days.
- Prepare: Wash blossoms gently under cool water just before using. Remember, the petals are delicate and may be broken by strong streams of water. For unstuffed blossoms, twist off the base, which will remove the bottom and stamen. For stuffed blossoms, carefully remove the stamen with small scissors or kitchen tweezers, keeping the petals and base intact.
- Preserve: While commercially canned squash blossoms may be sold in some stores, there are no tested recipes for canning these at home. While freezing blossoms is technically possible, when thawed, they will not likely be good for stuffing. Try them in a cooked recipe, like those described in the Eat section below. As for dehydrating, the blossoms will likely not take very long in a food dehydrator. Use them as a garnish or try adding to cooked recipes.
- Eat: Serving blossoms fried on their own or stuffed are the options we did for this blog. There are a number of recipes online using blossoms as a pizza topping, mixed into pasta, as a filling for quesadillas, added to egg quiches or frittatas, and as an ingredient in soups, like sopa de flor de calabaza.
Healthy Eats and Repeat
How much difference is there between canned and frozen foods? How should you cook venison? When is the best time to buy avocados? Get answers to these questions as well as other tips, tutorials and recipes for common kitchen foods and items with University of Illinois Extension Nutrition & Wellness Educator Caitlin Mellendorf’s blog Healthy Eats and Repeat. Build your best life. Trust Extension to help.
Caitlin Mellendorf is an Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon and Piatt Counties in Central Illinois. She is a Registered Dietitian and her work focuses on helping community members gain the knowledge, skills and tools to live healthier, more nutritious lifestyles. This includes providing programs and answering questions about heart health, diabetes, food safety, food preservation, grocery shopping and cooking. You can reach Caitlin by email at email@example.com or call 217.877.6042. Check out her nutrition blog Healthy Eats and Repeats for seasonal recipes and of an exploration of common kitchen foods.