There are certain things in life that for obvious reasons, we shouldn’t eat— things like human flesh, cats, and my meatloaf.
There then are other things that look and smell good enough to eat but aren’t, like apple pie candles, passion fruit deodorant, and my meatloaf.
Until recently, I would have added flowers to that list. But thanks to my friend Beth who mentioned she recently prepared stuffed squash blossoms for dinner, I discovered the edibility of the beautiful, bright orange squash blossom.
Although I didn’t even know what squash blossoms were, I was intrigued. One, because I had never eaten a flower not made of icing, and two, because stuffing squash blossoms sounded healthier for dinner than stuffing hot dogs into buns.
“What are squash blossoms, anyway?” I asked Beth.
She cocked her head slightly and looked at me as though I had just asked her the color of Napoleon’s white horse.
“Squash blossoms are the blossoms of squash,” she answered with a trace of “really?” in her voice.
Call me naïve, but since when were squash blossoms considered a common menu item? Have you ever ordered a steak with a side of sautéed squash blossoms, or cruised down the frozen food aisle and observed Green Giant “squash blossom vegetable medley” on the shelf?
Beth went on to explain that squash blossoms are the flowers of any summer squash, and can be purchased at farmer’s markets and specialty stores.
“You should try them,” she encouraged.
I was skeptical. Flowers for dinner? What would I serve them with—a clod of dirt?
I was equally intimidated by the idea of cooking a flower. The only flower I had worked with was spelled differently and used mostly for baking.
On the other hand, I was allured by the idea of preparing an exotic dish that didn’t have Hebrew National in the title.
I would not let fear get the better of me. I would embrace my spirit of adventure. I would take the bull by the horns. I would ask my husband Chris to prepare the squash blossoms.
He was up for the challenge. What’s more, he informed me, we had squash blossoms growing right in our very own vegetable garden.
“Right in our garden! Wow, how did I not know that?” I asked.
“Maybe because I seed it. And I tend it. And I harvest it . . .”
“Are you saying I don’t help?”
“No, I wasn’t saying anything, I just . . .
“I’ll pick the squash blossoms,” I said.
“Why don’t I help you, because . . .”
“No, no,” I interrupted, “I can do it.”
Without further delay, I strolled out to the garden and entered the thicket of tangled squash vines. I squatted down to admire the beautiful trumpet-like flowers with long, graceful necks.
Then I reached out to pick one. That’s when I felt a fiery pain radiate through my fingers.
“What the . . .” I snatched my hand back from what felt like a desert cactus. Upon closer examination, I noticed tiny needles covering the squash stem.
That damn squash was as prickly as a Tom Cruise divorce.
I ran back to the garage for gardening gloves. Armed with proper gear, I picked an armful of blossoms and brought them into the kitchen for Chris.
He set to task on Beth’s recipe, stuffing the delicate flowers with a ricotta cheese mixture while I made the more complicated part of the meal, canned chili.
Chris baked the blossoms and served them with a garnish of fresh herbs. The stuffed blossoms looked exquisite and tasted delicious.
If you’re looking to embrace your culinary spirit of adventure, consider squash blossoms. Gathering them may be a thorny job, but it won’t kill you to try them.
Lisa’s “It won’t kill you to try squash blossoms” Squash Blossom Recipe (adapted from Beth’s recipe):
- Once you’ve treated your flesh wounds, clean blossoms by gently rinsing them with water. Mix 16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese with 1 egg, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tbs fresh parsley and salt and pepper to taste (remember: salt in wounds hurts really bad). Stuff the blossoms with a spoonful of filling.
- Place in greased baking dish in preheated oven and bake at 350 for twenty minutes. Garnish with a sprig of parsley, curled carrots, or a rack of ribs.
When Jersey Girl Lisa Tognola traded her job as freelance writer for that of full-time mother of three children, it didn’t take long before her writing was reduced to grocery lists, notes to school nurses excusing her kids from gym class, and e-mails to her husband reminding him to call his mother. Daily life as a suburban mom was fraught with challenges and unexpected dangers like adult dinner groups, town hall meetings and home shopping parties. Rather than fight her fate, this mom embraced it by unleashing her inner columnist. Her weekly column, Main Street Musings, reflects on life in the suburbs---the good, the bad, and the ugly. Visit her blog http://mainstreetmusingsblog.com/. Follow her on twitter @lisatognola