All looks well in my vegetable patch doesn’t it? Well, looks can be a bit deceiving. As you may know, I have very few bumblebees this year. All pollinators are down in spite of my efforts to spray nothing harmful and to grow all their favorite foods. Summer squash and other cucurbits are not wind pollinated like corn. They need help to bear fruit so this year I’m playing Aphrodite. Just in case you’re facing the same bee crisis and want some cucumbers, melons, squash, etc., I wanted to show you the difference between male and female flowers.
The beautiful male flowers, which are also good for eating, appear first, about seven to ten days before the female ones. In Latin America, they are much sought after and are called flores de calabaza. The male blossoms are here to lure bees and other pollinators to the plant. They hope the bees will communicate back to the hive or nest saying, “Hey, the good stuff is over there.” They entice the bees to do their dances and entice their fellow workers out to play.
Unless, of course, the bees have been confused by a certain class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. Then, the bees behave as if they were Alzheimer-inflicted, nursing home residents who wander off by themselves. Scientists think that’s why bees are disappearing all over the United States. But, no talk of colony collapse disorder today. Here’s what you can do if you notice your squash is withered like this.
Either take a q-tip and dab pollen from the male bloom to the female one, or if you’re like me and have no q-tips handy, pinch off a male bloom. Tear off its outside petals and expose the stamen.
Take the stamen and gently dab pollen to the female blooms pistils.
That’s all there is to it. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. In a few days, you’ll have a squash big enough to harvest. I find this gray zucchini especially tasty. We’ve fried it, sautéed it and even eaten it raw with ranch or another dressing.