Cooking Like A Mexican

Stuffed pumpkin flowers
BY: ALE BORBOLLA

We all know Mexicans are resourceful; we tend to use everything we can so that we have as little waste as possible. Mexico isn’t all about the tacos and the tequila; there are also some awesome plants, flowers and trees to be found in this sprawling and bio-diverse country.

Pumpkin flowers vary from orange to yellow to white, and are a big part of our gastronomy from way before the Spaniards came to ancient Mexico. These are not only delicious and pretty, but also highly nutritious. Most pumpkin and zucchini breeds come from the domesticated species of Mexico, and they all come from the cucurbita family. The oldest records of consumption go back as far as 10,000 years ago. Since then, pumpkin and zucchini have been a big staple in Mexican food. 

They’re commonly called squash blossoms in English because it doesn’t matter what kind of squash they’re from. They’ll most commonly be from smaller summer squash plants (e.g. zucchini) though, since they produce many small squashes instead of a few large squash (like pumpkins), so you can get more blossoms for your trouble. As weird as it may be for those who were not born in Mexico, the squash blossom is edible, and it is delicious by the way. It is part of the traditional Mexican traditional cuisine that has influenced the Italian cuisine. These flowers give to the different dishes a delicate flavor and texture.

The oldest record of consumption was found in a cave in Oaxaca from about 6000 BC to 10000 BC. As you can see, Mexicans have been eating flowers long before chefs thought it was cool.

Pumpkin flowers don’t have a strong scent, but they make up for that in flavor. They are often cooked with epazote, another amazing Mexican edible plant. The main dishes that are made are soups and quesadillas because of their easiness.

When the squash plants blossom, the vegetable garden looks more like a flower garden. The graceful yellow flower, of an elegant and simple design, does not perfume the air, but it certainly makes our mouth water. Do we mean that people eat flowers? Yes. Again, we are talking about eating flowers here. In fact, according to the journal Cuadernos de Nutrición, it can be said that Mexico is the country in which the greatest number of recipes include flowers.

The best time for pumpkin flowers is during the rainy season, typically July through October. Botanically, these flowers have both male and female buds, and zucchini is the fruit that they produce. I know, when you read “pumpkin flowers,” you were probably picturing a big, round, orange pumpkin. But it’s actually zucchini!

Some flowers bloom for only a day. These flowers, however, have a super short life, they only last 24 hours before they start to get mushy and lose their prettiness.

The zucchini plant is so versatile. You can find the flowers and fruit all year round in supermarkets, mercados and corner stores. Each plant has about 174 to 222 flowers, making it one of the best crops to plant (of course, not before corn). Zucchini is also called a sister crop of corn, which means it can be planted right next to maize without affecting it in any way, and nourishing the soil as it grows. The zucchini flower is very cheap, and two pounds cost a little less than a dollar. A plus, since what is usually valued is the actual number of zucchini rather than their weight.

Pumpkin flowers are very nutritious. They have high levels of vitamin C, which protects the body from oxidation. They also have folic acid, which is recommended for fetal health; B complex vitamins, which generally aid the body to absorb nutrients; potassium, which restores nerves and muscles; and carbohydrates, which are energy and fuel the body. This amazing ingredient also has high levels of calcium, phosphorus and iron.

This time, I bring to you a delicious dish that can be an appetizer, a snack, or side dish. It’s so hot outside, I didn’t really want to give you another soup recipe. 

 

Stuffed pumpkin flowers

 

3 spoonfuls of water

A pinch of ground black pepper

A pinch of salt

1 bunch of pumpkin flowers (can be bought in any market and some supermarkets)

8 ounces of panela cheese, or any fresh cheese of your choice. (can be substituted for a vegan option)

½ cup of vegetable oil

1 cup of flour

2 eggs

 

First, we have to clean the flowers, which is quite easy. Remove the middle pistil and wash with cold water and a lot of patience so they don’t break. Stuff the flower with crumbled panela cheese, or whatever cheese you choose. Then, start preparing the coating.

In a bowl, place eggs, water, salt and pepper, and whisk until frothy. Then, dip each stuffed flower and roll in flour.

          The last step may get a little tricky, but it just takes some practice! Fry the stuffed and coated flower in a pan with very hot oil. Two minutes on each side is enough, just watch for jumping oil. After frying, place the flowers in a plate with a paper napkin to drain as much excess oil as possible.

And that’s it! ,