We may not have had the expected glut of zucchini that everyone warned us about, having put ten plants in the ground, but we have had a glut of zucchini flowers – luckily for us as we fried some the other week, at the suggestion of a friend, and are now addicted!
One thing to note is that the flowers to be picked and used in this recipe are only the male flowers – those on the plant with just a stalk (the flower in the photo on the left is male). The female flowers have a more bulbous area at the base of the flower which then develop into our longed for zucchini so every one of these is precious and must be left on the plant!
After finding all manner of batter suggestions on the Internet, we decided to try the simplest version first and build from there if the taste was no good, so we whipped up some flour, salt, pepper and enough fizzy water to make a creamy consistency.
The longest part of the job was washing the flowers as our zucchini bed has been invaded by hundreds of tiny little ants, and they take a lot of persuading to leave their comfy homes in the centre of the blooms. But a delicate swill or two in the water and they get the message to move out.
The flowers were then lightly shaken before being put into the bowl and lightly coated with the batter mix. (Our final verdict on this batter was that it was perfect and didn’t need any adjustments … you really get the flavour of the flower when you bite into it and the batter is delicately thin, almost tempura-like, so doesn’t overpower it with too thick a coating).
We’d unpacked our deep fat fryer a while ago when we had a craving for proper chips (after nearly three years without), so had that switched on ready to carefully drop the flowers into – only a couple of minutes on each side and they’re done. Using a slotted spoon we lifted then onto a kitchen towel and sprinkled them with sea salt whilst still warm.
And for something so delicate, they do hold their heat for quite a while – something we discovered in our eagerness to taste the first ones! But they were absolutely delicious and have become a regular favourite antipasto as we wait for our main meal to cook on an evening. A glass of cold Prosecco goes very well with them too!
We’ve also tried a couple of our other ‘squash’ flowers – the ‘zucchine trombetta’ are just as good, the flower being a little smaller, and this bed has remained ‘ant-free’ so is a much easier preparation job. The ‘zucca’ or pumpkin has outdone itself in male flowers so we were disappointed to find that the taste of these is just a little too strong with quite a bitter aftertaste, so we’ll stick with the zucchini for now. And to prolong their life I’ve tried freezing a few, firstly on trays in the freezer then packing them away carefully in a freezer box the following day. They work just as well – the flowers pretty much thawing after only a couple of minutes so the batter sticks to them adequately and the taste is not compromised at all.
And for the zucchini themselves? Well we regularly make up a frittata with a small chopped onion, grated zucchini, eggs, salt, pepper, a handful of ‘parmigiano’ and sometimes a fresh red chilli. Otherwise we make individual fritters, similar to the frittata ingredients above but with the addition of flour to make a batter-like mixture, and we serve these with a Greek yogurt and mint dip. We’ve also pre-cooked and frozen some to keep us going through Winter with risottos and warming pasta dishes with pancetta and cream to look forward to … yum!
They are definitely on my ‘orto’ list again for next year and, with less bed preparation to do than this year, we may even get them in the ground in time to enjoy a really good crop of flowers and fruits … maybe next year ten plants won’t be enough!