What’s In Season? Squash and Squash Blossoms!

By Barbara Kobsar | Illustration by Charmaine Koehler-Lodge


The flower stalls at the farmers’ markets offer many beautiful bunches and bouquets, but I’m interested in another type of blossom found a little further down the aisle. The edible flowers of squash plants, better known as squash blossoms, come in stunning oranges and yellows, and when cooked, they offer a delicate squash-like taste. I’ll probably find them in small piles of tightly closed buds. Perfect.

Sometimes called zucchini flowers, squash blossoms come from any squash. The plants produce both male and female blossoms, but since it’s the female blossoms that produce the squash, growers pick the male blossoms—which are generally more abundant anyway—to bring to market. If you’re wondering how to tell them apart, look for the beginning of a squash at the base of the female blossom. That eventually grows into the actual squash if the flower is pollinated while on the plant.

Squash blossoms are delicate and need a gentle touch. You can store unwashed blossoms wrapped in towels in the refrigerator for a few days, but they are best used quickly. When ready to use, open the petals to check for snuggling bugs. Turn the blossom upside down and give it a little shake. Then twist off the stem and remove the pistil (central organ) and surrounding stamens (pollen-producing filaments) by using your fingers to snap them off. Wash the blossom gently under running water and set to dry on a towel. Stuffed and roasted squash blossoms are a delicacy, but shredded or sliced blossoms are delicious used in soups, risotto, scrambled eggs, or pizza, or simply added raw to salads.

If female blossoms get pollinated, they become squash quite rapidly. In hot summer weather, it might only be five to seven days before the ideal harvest stage for summer squash varieties. If picked before reaching full maturity, the squash will have thin skin, soft seeds, and high moisture content, and their mild, sweet, and buttery flavors make them exceptionally versatile in the recipe department. I choose the smallest squash of whatever variety I am buying to get the mildest flavors, and I look for other telltale signs of freshness like shiny smooth skin and a heavier weight for the size.

Zucchini come in dark-green as well as deep-golden-yellow and pale-green varieties, but I also love the shapes of the crookneck squash. Round types are a favorite of mine for grilling since they don’t fall through the grate. Look for varieties like Eight Ball Squash (around the size of a cue ball). They are mildly nutty tasting with a firm texture that lends well to baking and stuffing. Scallop squash—look for names like patty pan and Sunburst—have distinctively scalloped edges, smooth skin, and relatively flat shapes, which make them look like little flying saucers. These are my favorites for a tasty summer panzanella: Sauté chunks of squash for 3 to 4 minutes, then toss them with stale bread, mozzarella, pine nuts, tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and a simple vinaigrette. ´


Summer Squash and Squash Blossom Pasta

Serves 6

  • 4 to 5 small to medium zucchini or other summer squash
  • 2 tablespoons each extra virgin olive oil and butter
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup basil leaves or arugula, torn
  • 16 ounces pappardelle, tagliatelle, or egg fettuccine (dry or fresh)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano plus more for garnish
  • 6 squash blossoms: stems, pistils, and stamens removed, petals sliced into long strips

Put a large pot of water on to heat for the pasta.

Slice ends off squash. Using a peeler, mandolin, or very sharp knife, slice the squash lengthwise into thin strips, about the width of the pasta. Place a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted, add squash and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and basil and continue heating gently while you cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and add along with the cheese to the sauce, tossing gently to mix. Serve in shallow bowls topped with squash blossoms and a little more grated cheese.

Veteran journalist and cookbook author Barbara Kobsar focuses on traditional home-cooked meals using local produce. Find her at the Walnut Creek and San Ramon farmers’ markets selling her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies.

Artist Charmaine Koehler-Lodge grows most of her family’s food in their rural Pennsylvania garden.