Image by Gardening Know How
By Jackie Rhoades
No matter how tasteful the delicacy, why would anyone eat a squash blossom? Wouldn’t it be better to allow each of those blossoms to grow into a delightfully delicious squash? Perhaps it would be better if, in fact, all squash blossoms became squash. They don’t. Mother Nature with her infinite sense of humor made female squash blossoms and male squash blossoms and put them both on the same vine, but they’re too far apart to make baby squash without a little help.
It’s all a part of that ‘Birds and Bees’ story your mother told you and when it comes to squash, the emphasis is definitely on the bees. Whether it’s the summer varieties such as zucchini squash, crook neck squash, or straight yellow squash, or winter types like butternut squash, spaghetti squash and acorn squash, all squash have one thing in common. There’s a male squash blossom and a female squash blossom and without at least one of each, and a few busy bees, you won’t be eating any squash.
Here’s how it works. The male flower opens and the bees get busy doing what bees do and while they’re doing it, pollen from the male flower sticks to their hairy little legs. The bees then buzz on over to the female flower where a little of the collected pollen falls off and fertilizes the female flower. Time passes and the little base of the female flower grows into a squash. The male flower has done his job and is now pretty much useless. Let’s eat him and enjoy!
Identifying Male Squash Blossoms and Female Squash Blossoms
How do you tell the difference between male and female squash blossoms? It’s really pretty easy. Female squash blossoms usually grow close to the center of the plant. Check the base of the flower where the blossom meets the stem. Female squash blossoms have a small swollen embryonic fruit at their base which will grow into a squash if the bee does what bees do. Male squash blossoms are showier and they tend to hang out on long skinny stalks all along the plant. There are a lot more male squash blossoms than female and they begin blooming earlier.
Male flowers are the ones to harvest, dip in batter and fry. Just make sure you don’t get carried away and eat too many. Save some for the bees and the female flowers who love them.