I didn’t realize how sexual plants were until I started growing zucchini. Concerned that my plants weren’t being pollinated, I did some research and found that to hand-pollinate zucchini, all you have to do is rub the male flower’s pistil on the female’s stigma.
But how to tell the difference between male and female flowers? Well, you learned this when you were five – boys and girls have, ah, visibly different parts, and the zucchini flowers’ parts are surprisingly similar to humans’. Or maybe I just have a dirty mind. You be the judge.
Pistils and stigmas aside, female flowers have a mini zucchini as a stem, and males have a normal stem. This is important, because if you’re going to fry zucchini flowers, and you should if you have them available, you want to fry the males of course, and leave the females behind to form zucchini. But not before sacrificing a male to rub over the female, in a deliberate act of zucchini rape.
To further abuse your zucchini flowers, cut the males off (ouchy), pry them open, stuff them with cheese, batter, and fry them. It’s kind of like mozzarella sticks, except even crisper and more flavorful because the mozzarella was marinated in garlicky olive oil. It’s almost better than sex – at least zucchini sex.
Stuffed Zucchini Flowers (adapted from How to Read a French Fry, by Russ Parsons)
I used regular (not fresh) mozzarella because it’s all I had. It worked just fine, but I definitely think fresh would be even better.
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 24 pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ – 1 cup water
2 quarts vegetable oil for deep-frying
24 zucchini flowers (about 1 pound), washed and dried
1. In a medium bowl, combine the cheese, garlic, crushed red pepper, olive oil, and a healthy pinch of both salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour and enough water to form a thin, smooth batter with the thickness of heavy cream.
3. In large pot, heat the vegetable oil to 375 degrees. While the oil heats, use a finger to pry open each flower; stuff a piece of mozzarella inside, then twist the petals together to close the flower around the cheese.
4. Dip the blossoms in the batter; let excess batter drip off, then place the blossoms in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides, 4-5 minutes. Fry only 4-6 blossoms at a time, carefully monitoring the oil temperature so it remains between 350 and 375 degrees. Drain the fried blossoms on a paper towel-lined plate. Salt lightly and serve immediately.