Numerous types of squash, ranging from the recognizable zucchini and yellow summer squash (Cucurbita pepo varieties) to red kuri squash (Cucurbita maxima variety), are prized for multiple varieties with varying growth habits and the fruit they produce, often prolifically. These frost-tender annual garden crops have separate male and female flowers. Squash flowers are sometimes removed to use in meals, because they are edible and even considered a delicacy by some people; to prevent the development of unwanted fruit; or to halt disease spread.
Things You'll Need
- Pruning shears or sharp knife
- Plastic bag
Trim off squash blossoms to eat using a sharp knife or pruning shears, making the cut about 1 inch below the base of the flower. Harvest flowers for consumption at midday when they are blooming, with petals open. If you do not want to interfere with fruit production, harvest only male flowers. Leave all female flowers, with the small, undeveloped fruit at the base, and a few male flowers, which are necessary to pollinate the female flowers attached to the squash plant.
Rinse the harvested flowers in a bowl of cool water and store them in ice water in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat or cook them. If the anthers located in the center of the flower are tough or slimy, cut or pinch them off prior to consumption to ensure that the flower has an appealing texture.
Cut off female flowers about 1 inch below the small, undeveloped fruit at the bottom of the flower to reduce the number of fruits that will develop, if desired.
Cut off spent male squash flowers as soon as they have finished blooming if a fungal disease like Botrytis cinerea, commonly called botrytis blight or gray mold rot, is attacking them or was present on nearby flowers. If the female flower attached to a developing fruit is diseased but the fruit still appears healthy, gently pull or twist the spent flower off. Handle infected flowers carefully, and place them in a plastic bag promptly to avoid spreading spores.
Tips & Warnings
- Squash stems and leaf stalks are prickly and can irritate skin, so wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt or avoid contact with the prickly plant parts.
- Only remove blossoms and otherwise work around the squash when conditions are dry, if possible, to avoid spreading diseases.
- University of California Cooperative Extension, Master Gardener: Summer Squash
- University of Illinois Extension: Summer Squash
- Kansas State University Research and Extension: Blossoms and Summer Squash Both From Easy-to-Grow Plant
- University of Illinois Extension, Integrated Pest Management: Gray-Mold Rot or Botrytis Blight of Vegetables
- University of Illinois Extension: Winter Squash
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images