What it is: Squash blossoms, the yellow-orange flowers that presage summer and winter squash and zucchini, are highly perishable summer treats. The crisp, velvety blooms offer a light crunch and a delicate vegetal flavor.
The plants produce both pollinating male blossoms and female blossoms which form the baby vegetables at their base. Pick them quickly — they last only last a day or two after opening.
Where it comes from: All squashes, both hard winter squash and pumpkins and thin-skinned summer squashes and zucchini, are native to the Americas.
If you don’t have your own garden, zucchini-growing friends will usually be glad to let you raid their supply to cut down on the surplus these plants produce. Squash blossoms are often available at farmers’ markets, such as Green City Market.
What to do with it: Squash blossoms can be cooked or served raw. They make great edible garnishes and additions to salads, soups and quesadillas. Try stuffing them with cheese or other fillings, twist the ends closed and then steam, poach, braise or dip them in batter and fry. Puree them into sauces or pesto.
At Quince in Evanston, Chef Andy Motto uses both the blossoms and yellow squash in a chilled summer soup.
Male and female blossoms can be used interchangeably; remove the stamens from the male flowers. Use them the day they’re picked if possible — they don’t keep well. Rinse very lightly, air dry, and store in a sealed container in the fridge until you’re ready to cook. Handle them very gently; they’re fragile.
Quince’s squash-blossom vichyssoise
Chef Andy Motto
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 shallots, minced
4 cups chopped yellow summer squash
4 cups chopped squash blossoms
1 quart milk
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon juice to taste
Whole squash blossoms for garnish
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until translucent and soft, about 1 minute. Add in the squash and blossoms and milk; cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, blend the soup smooth; taste and adjust seasoning as necessary with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Strain through a strainer; discard the solids. Chill thoroughly.
Garnish with squash blossoms just before serving. 4 to 6 servings.