Thursday, July 7, 2011

things are heating up in the garden

I got an email from a friend the other day with questions about squash blossoms, is it okay to pick them off and eat them? How do I know if my plant only has "male" blossoms (a common problem)?

So here is the story with squashes, the plants have both male and female flowers.  Both are needed to well - reproduce.

This is what the male flower looks like;
large and showing off (leave it to the males)

 And this is what the female looks like
small and hiding out towards the base of the plant

These are patty pan squash, so the resulting fruit from the liaison between these two flowers will be relatively small.  What's difficult to see is at the base of the female is a teeny tiny squash - just waiting to be fertilized.  Both sets of flowers only open once, so as long as you've got pollinators, nature should well...take it's course. It often happens that the male flowers start blooming before the females, but with some patience, it generally works itself out.  It is possible to hand pollinate with a Q tip, but that takes a ridiculous amount of patience, you think waiting for a pot of water to boil takes forever?  You should see how long you will wait to see one of these flowers bloom.

In terms of picking the blossoms, it's smartest to wait until the day after they bloom, you'll be able to tell the difference I promise.  If you pick them before they do their job, then you definitely will not get any fruit.

Cucumbers behave in the same way

male flowers, with pollinator (note pollinators are not just bees!)

Super magnified female flower, small cucumber already slightly visible

These cucumbers are destined to become pickles, one of my favorite things in life.  Speaking of pickles (and completely off topic, but on my mind) have you ever tried these?

If you like pickles, do yourself a favor and don't buy them.

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