Once there’s been sufficient rain – usually from July on here in the central highlands of the Bajío – the various squash from the calabacitas (small zucchini and summer squashes) to the larger calabazas (pumpkins and other hard squash) have their growth spurts, and the first sunny-colored result of this is the explosion of blossoms that are harvested and sold in the markets, but even more commonly, street-side. Being so delicate, the bunches can’t wait for buyers to come… so vendors are more likely to wander with their tempting cache.
10 pesos a bunch –it’s the magic number for a bag or bunch of most any fruit or vegetable–and Oh! the lovely things you can do with these delicately flavored flowers. Tricky to handle though– like thin tissue they will stick to damp fingers and tear, so be careful.
Pumpkins yield larger blossoms
well, there isn’t much to them, but no negatives either, so think of them as an ingredient that adds a burst of sunshiny color to something that’s already good.
In Mexico, in homes and fondas, cooks will shred flores de calabaza and add the bright golden filmy strips to any vehicle with a delicate flavor not apt to overwhelm its gentle zucchini ‘perfume’… this may be scrambled eggs, a simple cream soup, or a quesadilla or other mild cheese dish. A simple cream and stock-based sauce for chicken is elevated when the blossoms are creamed into it… and the beautiful flecks of colour bring a similar mystique and elegance similar to the effect of saffron.
Cleaning the flores
Cleaning and preparing the blossoms, especially if you wish to use them whole, requires a gentle hand. First, shake them out to dislodge any living critters that may be inside. Then, fill a large bowl with water and dangle the blossom in by the stem. Don’t soak them – better to do this quickly and then lightly shake off the water and lay the blossoms out on paper or a linen towel to dry.
Preparing flor de calabazafor stuffing
There are 2 ways to prepare the blossoms for stuffing. You can either remove the stem and base of the blossom and with scissors, slit open the blossom and open it out flat to reveal the pistil (its male reproductive organ) which you will then snap off. This method means you lose the presentation that the stem offers, but it’s much easier to stuff. Or, you can reach in with dry fingers (wait til the blossom is dry too) and carefully snap off the pistil. You need sure and delicate fingers to do this, but with patience, it’s not impossible.
Now that your squash blossoms are ready to use, try cooking them with your morning scramble or in an omelet. For a soup, try my Chayote Almond soup recipe as a base and stir in a full bunch of shredded blossoms (or more, you can’t overdo it with these). Add to a quesadilla or grilled cheese sandwich or garnish a salad of tomatoes and soft cheese with them, shredded, or torn.
If you’re looking to try this ingredient and aren’t in Mexico, or are unable to grow your own, try your farmers market… because you won’t find this lovely ingredient in a supermarket… it’s truly a slow food.