In some regions of the world, every part of certain animals killed for food is eaten. In parts of rural Eastern Europe, for instance, nothing from a pig is wasted. Apart from the meat, almost all organs are eaten.
Offal is an acquired taste, but how about vegetables that yield every part of them in every stage of their lifecycle? Hats off to them, for they surrender themselves totally to human consumption.
One such example is the humble pumpkin. In Bengal, every part (except the root) of the pumpkin plant and its fruit, including seeds, is eaten. (I learned only recently from a recipe that pumpkin seeds are eaten in America, too). In Bengal, the leaves are eaten as “shak,” which is a generic term for edible leaves cooked simply with few spices.
I have never been a big lover of pumpkin, except as a Halloween symbol. But one part of pumpkin that I really like is the flower. In fact, I like pumpkin flowers more than the fruit. The way Bengalis eat pumpkin flowers is to make fritters of them.
They make a batter of besan, or chickpea flour, seasoned with chilli powder and salt. For texture, a little bit of khaskhas, or poppy seeds, is added. Some cooks add some rice powder for extra crispness, but this is optional.
Here is the recipe:
10 fresh pumpkin flowers (only petals)
2/3 cup besan
½ teaspoon chilli powder (or paprika, if you prefer mild)
⅓ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon poppy seeds (available in Indian grocery stores)
⅓ cup water
Oil for deep-frying
- Remove the calyx and the centers of flowers, keeping only the petals.
- Make a batter of all the ingredients, except the flowers.
- Heat oil.
- Dip each flower into batter, shaking off excess, and deep-fry in batches.
- Serve hot, with ketchup or mustard.
Try this, and let me (and others) know how it turned out. Until then, bon appétit.