Zucchini Blossoms: Tastes Like Squash Perfume

The edible flower of a zucchini is a delicate and ephemeral treat. Blossom fans at a farmers market in Washington, D.C., recommend them stuffed with cheese and baked, fried in batter or eaten raw. But prepare them quickly — they won't last longer than a day!

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now let's talk about a work of culinary art. This summer, our reporters are sampling the season's bounty at farmers markets and roadside stands across America, and they're bringing back recipes. NPR's Neda Ulaby lives in Washington, D.C., in a neighborhood that used to be considered one of the city's most dangerous. Now, it has a weekly farmers market with flowers that you can eat.

NEDA ULABY: It used to be when people visited the corner of 1st and R, they were not enjoying the live music or shopping for fresh, organic produce.

Mr. TED MCGINN (Organizer, 1st and R Farmers Market): This particular location, when I first moved into the community 20 years ago, was an open-air drug market.

ULABY: Ted McGinn oversees this collection of crisp white tents scattered over the asphalt, each banked with strawberries, chilled peas and tender yellow squash blossoms.

Mr. MCGINN: We have squash blossoms today - not only a Native American treat, but also very popular in the Mediterranean countries.

Ms. ROBIN SCHUSTER (Organizer, 1st and R Farmers Market): They're beautiful. The squash blossoms are beautiful.

ULABY: Robin Schuster is another market organizer. She says they look like lilies in a vase.

Ms. SCHUSTER: So the goldbar squash makes prettier squash blossoms.

Mr. BERNARD BOYLE (Farmer): Yeah. Yup. It's, like, my favorite type of squash.

ULABY: Schuster convinced farmer Bernard Boyle to truck in squash blossoms from his acreage up in Virginia's northern neck.

Ms. SCHUSTER: I asked him last year if he would bring squash blossoms, and Bernard said, you really want squash blossoms? Right? You remember that?

Mr. BOYLE: Yeah.

Ms. SCHUSTER: He thought that was a little weird.

ULABY: But Schuster introduced Boyle to squash blossoms Mediterranean style, stuffed with soft cheese and fried. We get the cheese here, too, at a stand run by a local creamery.

What would you recommend to stuff deep-fried zucchini flowers with?

Ms. SCHUSTER: Oh, the bovre, hands-down.

ULABY: The bovre?

Ms. SCHUSTER: Yes.

ULABY: Yup.

(Soundbite of crackling)

ULABY: The thing about bovre is that its curds stands up to boiling oil, but the cheese is easy to spoon into delicate blossoms. Robin Schuster twists the tops like party favors before dropping in the fat.

Ms. SCHUSTER: Squash blossoms are nature's way of giving you ravioli without having to make the dough.

ULABY: Schuster dunks each blossom in a tempura-like batter of flour and beer. She shows me one she baked in the oven.

Ms. SCHUSTER: It plumps up like a little balloon. You can see the air inside of it plumping it up, and this skin will become more transparent so that when you take it out, it will be crisp like a piece of rice paper.

ULABY: And delicious. Schuster says you can add squash blossoms to omelets or stuff them with fresh crab.

Back at the farmer's market, one customer, Scott Roberts, says all that is too much fuss.

Mr. SCOTT ROBERTS: I like eating the squash blossoms raw. You can cook with them, but it's easier to just eat them raw. They taste delicious.

ULABY: What do they taste like?

Mr. ROBERTS: Air.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ULABY: To me, the blossoms taste like squash perfume.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News, Washington.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Now, if you want to discover an easy way to prepare this treat, go to our website: npr.org.

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