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Monday, 22 September 2008

Fried zucchini flowers (Κολοκυθοανθούς α λα ιταλικά)

The weather has cooled down in Hania so much that I find I have more energy to get things done around the house and garden. It is now not so much of a chore to work with the brown soil under my feet, even if it is a little muddy.

(a very confused sky)

We planted a new group of zucchini plants about a month ago. They have been producing on a regular basis, but I now nip them in the bud rather than letting them become giant marrows. At the same time, I'm collecting more and more zucchini flowers on the stem (not the ones attached to the zucchini themselves), the so-called male flowers, probably because I'm in the garden so frequently and I can see them.

zucchini flowers storing zucchini pumpkin vine flowers

I've also seen these flowers growing over-profusely elsewhere too, in my neighbour's garden, but not on zucchini plants; he grows pumpkin, a not so popular vegetable for human consumption in Greece, but it does apparently make good animal feed, as well as the vine providing shade for other summer garden produce which is growing in an overexposed location.

The variety of squash that my neighbour's planted grows in the same way as do courgette plants, except that pumpkins are always vines, whereas our zucchini plants are more like lateral bushes, much shorter than a vine-growing plant. The flowers they produce are more plentiful, but smaller than those of courgette plants. They look exactly the same as zucchini flowers, and they can be cooked in the same way. It is difficult to tell them apart once they've been cut away from the plants.

pumpkin vine flowers pumpkin vine flowers
(I picked some flowers from this pumpkin vine today and left a few on it to pick later - alas, by the time I returned, the flowers had all closed up again, as they do when the sun stops shining, or it is late in the morning; believe it or not, I had picked all the blossoms the day before! In any case, they'll open up tomorrow...)

The flowers look fragile, but they are actually very resilient. Pick them from the stalk, cut away the (usually five) spiky bits at the base of the flower, and remove the dusty yellow pistil. Wash them well (well-camouflaged insects are probably hiding inside them). Once they are dry, they can be stored for up to a fortnight, one flower inside the other, in a plastic bag or air-tight container (take care not to squash them), or used in a meal.

The Italians use zucchini flowers in a variety of ways. In Crete, they are mainly turned into dolmadakia rice parcels, but as I have a lot of these flowers at my disposal at the moment, I've decided to use them Italian-style, as a simple fritter.

fried zucchini pumpkin vine flowers

For the batter, you need:
1 egg
3-4 tablespoons of flour
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to season

Mix the batter ingredients until the mixture is smooth and runny. This mixture will be enough to fry about 15-18 flowers. Heat some (preferably) olive oil in a saucepan. Make sure it's really hot, then dip the flowers in the batter, one-by-one, drain off the excess batter, and toss them into the very hot oil. Cook them in two batches rather than one, because the temperature of the oil will decrease if you add them altogether, making them oil-soaked rather than dry and crispy. Turn them over once to brown on both sides, then use a slotted spoon to drain them out of the pan. Transfer them to a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up the excess oil. They are best served hot.

fried zucchini pumpkin vine flowers

These flowers tasted very much like their parents: fried zucchini. They were accompanied by fried rabbit and an aromatic Greek salad to which I had added some rocket leaves; my summer purslane weed has now given way to autumn rocket in the cooler weather (though I did need to sow it, whereas purslane grows without any help at all).

For a more dramatic look, keep the stalks when frying them, as Laurie did, so that they can be picked up by the stem when eating them. I simply don't have enough room in my fridge to do this.

This post is dedicated to Priscilla, who still found the time to blog and update us on what happened to her home when Ike visited; spare a thought for others like her who have lost their kitchens from the havoc wreaked by nature itself.

This is my entry for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once.

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