Squash blossoms. You may have seen these brilliant orange blooms peeking out from tables at your neighborhood farmer’s market or gracing the menu of your favorite posh restaurant. Fall’s bounty of squash from pumpkin and acorn to sweet and creamy butternut, all feature food-ready flowers for the taking, making this the perfect time to give them a try.
To get the scoop on these colorful nuggets of deliciousness, we spoke with Michael Ruffner, owner and chef of My Urban Eats, a San Diego food truck serving a menu of farm to table dishes he describes as comfort food with an upscale twist.
“I have one or two things that your average cook probably wouldn’t prepare at home, but it’s all very approachable. When you read the menu, you know exactly what it is.”
One of those special items you might recognize is squash blossoms. Far from the latest fad, squash blossoms have been a popular staple in both the Mexican and Italian cooking, and their roots reach as far back as pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica. Ruffner notes that before we all started buying our food at the local grocery store, many households grew gardens of zucchini and other types of squash in their backyards and used the blossoms in a variety of dishes.
“It’s one of the foods that’s gotten forgotten about over time … they’ve become more of a gourmet food.”
My Urban Eats regularly features a squash blossom dish on their menu for as long as they are available. Their version is stuffed with creamy Mexican Panela cheese and covered in a batter of flour and spices; they are then fried and served in a corn tortilla and topped with fresh cilantro, pickled onion and salsa.
Extraordinarily delicate, some growers even go as far as harvesting them in the cool evenings, while the blossoms are still open. Preparing them does require a bit of work. The pistil or stamen, depending whether you’re using a male or female flower, must be removed and the flower cleaned before stuffing or cooking, but their wonderfully subtle flavor makes it well worth the effort.
“I think a lot of people are scared of them because they’re flowers and they shouldn’t be,” Ruffner says. “It does have a distinct flavor … kind of like a yellow squash, a really young, sweet yellow squash. It tastes kind of like that.”
Interested in other flowers you can cook with? Take a look at our Guide to Flowers You Can Eat.