Flowers bring more to the table than beauty: They’ve been part of the human diet for thousands of years. In particular, the golden tubular blossoms of the zucchini plant are ever-popular in Italy, where they are stuffed with ricotta and herbs such as thyme, and then lightly battered and fried (or sometimes baked). In Mexico, the petals are used in quesadillas and soups.
A type of “squash blossom,” zucchini flowers can also be pan-fried (go easy since they are so delicate) and served as a side dish or added to eggs. You can eat them raw, too, tossed into salads or filled with a soft cheese and honey or with olive tapenade, for instance.
There are no reliable data on their nutrition, but they contain some beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and other potentially beneficial plant compounds (though you don’t get much from the small amounts typically consumed). Be aware that flowers that have pollen can cause allergic reactions in some people; removing the reproductive organs (stamen and pistil) reduces the risk but doesn’t eliminate it.
Use zucchini flowers in both sweet and savory dishes for their aesthetic appeal, not for their nutrition. If you have a vegetable garden, you can grow zucchini for both the fruit (yes, botanically it is classified as fruit) and its flowers. Or you may be able to find the flowers at farmers’ markets in the summer or in gourmet grocery stores.
Before eating, remove the green parts (called sepals) around the buds—and shake out any critters that may be hiding inside. To clean them, dip gently in room-temperature water and let them dry on their own or spin them dry in an herb spinner (again, gently). Store them in the refrigerator wrapped in a moist paper towel; they will keep for about two days.
Also see Edible Flowers: Do’s and Don’ts.