As a passionate flower enthusiast, I have always been drawn to the captivating world of edible flowers, especially squash blossoms. Their intense yellow hue and striking beauty make them stand out among other flowers, adding a sense of wonder to any dish or garden. In this article, we will explore the history of squash blossoms, their various culinary uses, and the intriguing legends surrounding them.
Squash Blossoms Through the Ages
Since pre-Hispanic times, squash blossoms have been a staple in Mexican cuisine. Traditionally, they were chopped and incorporated into tortillas, soups, and stews. The criollo zucchini, the original squash blossom variety, was primarily harvested between June and October. However, today's cultivation techniques have expanded the availability of squash blossoms all year round, thanks to the use of greenhouses.
Nowadays, in addition to the criollo zucchini, other squash varieties are used, such as Italian zucchini flowers, Castille squash, and melon squash. These blossoms can be found in markets across the central regions of Mexico, particularly in the tianguis of the State of Mexico, where they are sold in bunches or by the kilo.
Understanding Squash Blossom Anatomy
Squash blossoms grow in isolation, nestled in the axils of the leaves of the gourd plant (ayotli). The plant itself is either creeping or climbing, with branched tendrils providing support. The flowers come in two forms: male and female. While the female flowers produce the fruit, the male flowers are the ones primarily used for consumption.
Preparing Squash Blossoms: Tips for the Perfect Dish
When preparing squash blossoms, it's essential to clean them by removing the soft calyxes. This process enhances their flavor and provides a more visually appealing texture. Contrary to popular belief, there's no need to remove the calyxes and stamens, as they don't make the dish bitter. However, it's important to remember that squash blossoms don't last long, so it's best to cook them the same day they're purchased.
Squash Blossoms in Mexican Cuisine
The squash blossom is a versatile and delicious ingredient that transcends social boundaries. You'll find it gracing the tables of both high-end establishments and humble eateries alike. Squash blossoms can be enjoyed stewed or raw, making them a popular choice for various dishes.
Legend has it that consuming squash blossoms induces laughter and an irresistible urge to sing. While this claim may be attributed to the influence of chinguiritos, there's no denying that these vibrant flowers bring joy to those who appreciate their beauty and savor their flavors.
Celebrating the Squash Blossom
The squash blossom is a symbol of life's beauty and the rich culinary heritage of Mexico. Its vibrant color, splendid appearance, and versatile culinary uses make it a prized ingredient in both traditional and modern dishes. As a lover of flowers and an admirer of the squash blossom, I invite you to explore and embrace the delightful world of this exquisite edible flower. With each bite, you'll be transported to a place of joy, laughter, and maybe even song.
In-Text Citation: Rosita Sánchez and Estado de México. Conversación En La Cocina, Gastronomía Mexiquense. 1st ed., Mexico, Estado de México, 2006.