Pumpkin Blossoms

Sometimes, pumpkins misbehave. The three pumpkin vines in my garden gave me only one giant gourd this year. (In their defense, I didn’t want pumpkins to begin with—because I use compost, I normally end up with a wider variety of plants in my garden bed than expected.)

The pumpkins flowered fruitlessly all through August. By the time move-in week came, I was absolutely fed up with my unproductive vines. I did not want to kill the plants before their time, and I wanted to get at least some use from them. So, I ate their blossoms.

In the American South, battered and pan fried pumpkin blossoms are a well-respected seasonal dish. Farther up north, I get raised eyebrows when I tell people what I had for lunch.

These light, nutritious flowers are delicious; their petals taste vaguely of cucumber. At the very base of each flower, there is one sweet bite, as you eat the flower’s pool of nectar.

FullSizeRenderI will have sometimes plucked flowers straight from the vine and eat them raw. If I get a good few handfuls of flowers, I throw them on a very hot pan with a bit of broth and heat them until they’re just wilted.

If you have a pumpkin vine near you, or ever get a chance to buy pumpkin blossoms in a farmer’s market, get the crispest, perkiest flowers. Although wilted flowers taste the same, it’s easier for little bugs to hide in the fleshy creases and folds of the petals. You should be sure to carefully soak and rinse the flowers with water before continuing, because a simple once-over isn’t enough to ensure wilted flowers are free of unwanted inhabitants.

The flowers should be eaten as soon as possible. However, you can store them if they are wrapped loosely in a just-moist tea towel, or plastic baggie, and kept for a day in the fridge.

If you have pollen allergies, avoid this dish altogether. If you want to try the flowers but play it safe, you can pluck the yellow, pollen-covered “nose” within the flowers, rinse the flowers well, and then consume them.

Pumpkin blossoms are a surprisingly delicious treat that you can enjoy right at this time of year. If you get the chance, be sure to give them a try!

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