If you are fortunate enough to visit Italy at this time of year, you will find zucchini flowers for sale in the produce markets. The flowers are meant to be stuffed with cheese, batter-dipped and fried. It's a simple but divine dish that is emblematic of the early Italian summer.
I was first introduced to fried zucchini flowers during a visit to Rome 20 years ago. I was staying with a family, and I remarked to the mother that I had noticed the flowers for sale but didn't understand why. She made it a point the following day to buy some zucchini flowers and make the dish, and then I understood. The fried flowers are served immediately after cooking, with the melting cheese and the crunch of the fried batter blending together in one's mouth.
I have made the dish from time to time over the years, but not frequently. This year, however, I decided to grow zucchini for the flowers in order to make this dish. As you can see in this photo, the harvest has already begun. (By the way, the flowers used in this dish are the male flowers, not the female flowers from which the zucchini vegetable develops. Harvesting the male flowers will not affect the subsequent vegetable production.)
I'll likely have a greater meal from the zucchini flowers than from the zucchini vegetables. Powdery mildew is endemic in my garden, affecting both zucchini and cucumbers. While some cucumber varieties can resist the disease through the period of peak vegetable production, zucchini plants seem to succumb much more readily, and I generally end up with only a couple of vegetables from each plant before the plant wilts and dies.
But for now, it's time to enjoy fiori di zucca fritti.