Captured a zucchini blossom this morning on a plant that’s barely bigger than a transplant. It’s actually the second one that opened. I missed the first flower—you can see it wilted in the background in the photo at left.
Zucchini come on like gangbusters and don’t let up until the weather cools in fall. Stories of grocery bags filled with zucchini that were left on neighbor’s doorsteps were circulating in the neighborhood a few years back, but no one came forward as the alleged recipient.
All squash are native to the Americas, but zucchini is a mutant, or sport, that originated in Italy. It’s name comes from the Italian zucchino, which means “little squash.” Botanists called it Cucurbita pepo, a member of the same family as cucumbers and melons. In the United Kingdom and New Zealand, zucchini are referred to as “courgette,” while Australians and Americans call it “zucchini.”
Whatever you call it, you have to call it versatile. You can serve zucchini cooked or raw, sweet or savory. Zucchini is grilled, fried, deep fried, stuffed, or baked with an endless variety of spices and seasonings. And virtually everything you can do with the fruit of zucchini you can do with the blossom.
In fact, one of the ways you can “temper” the amount of zucchini your plants produce is to harvest the blossoms. Stuff them, dip them in tempura batter and deep fry them. Bake them. Put them raw into salads. Use them as a filling for quesadillas.
Sometimes you can find a perfect zucchini blossom still attached to the tiny zucchini fruit at its base. These are much sought after by gourmets and pricey restaurants.
You grow zucchini the same way you grow cucumbers. Plant them in late spring, after all danger of frost has past. Plant five or six seeds in “hills” of soil. When the plants are about two inches high, thin to the strongest two or three plants. This is best used for “bush” varieties of zucchini, which form a compact bush-like plant.
For varieties of zucchini that grow into a vine, it’s best to grow them vertically. Zucchini will climb a vertical trellis or net with just a little help from you. Vertical growing keeps the plants off the ground and makes it easier to see the fruits.
Make sure to harvest zucchini every day. Pick fruits before they reach six inches in length, when they’ll be the most tender and flavorful. If you miss a few and they get a little large, peel them, seed them, grate them, and make zucchini bread. Or add a couple of cups of grated zucchini to any chocolate cake recipe.
But try to resist leaving them on your neighbor’s doorstep.