Stir fry pumpkin flower (Chaa lapeau)

Young leaves and pumpkin flowers being prepared for stir fry.

Pumpkin flowers – it’s available in the markets, early in the mornings. In a stir fry dish it has a taste and crunch similar to morning glory. Love this dish!

Young leaves and pumpkin flowers being prepared for stir fry.

In many articles I’ve seen online, people pop off various parts of the flower to trash as they process it for cooking. But the Khmers I’ve seen cook it just cut them up and toss it all into a pot.

Taste of Nepal has some great photos and a recipe. And here’s a short explainer on pumpkin flowers from Tyrant Farms:

No matter how you eat them, you’ll enjoy knowing that a single cup of pumpkin flowers contains:

  • 643 IU Vitamin A
  • 9 mg Vitamin C
  • 57 mg Potassium
  • a host of other essential micronutrients to keep you healthy

Remember: only eat the male pumpkin flowers! Pumpkins are “monoecious,” meaning a single plant will produce both male and female flowers, allowing it to self-reproduce without another pumpkin plant. You only want to eat the male flowers—not the female flowers—to make sure your plant will grow pumpkins. Also, bees and other pollinators use the pollen from the male flowers to pollinate the female flowers, so you can either leave plenty of male flowers on the plant for them to do their work, or you can become a “pollinator” yourself by taking the harvested male flowers and rubbing their stamens against the female flower’s pistils (sorry if that sounds a bit X-rated) once you’ve harvested the flowers.

It’s easy to tell the male and female flowers apart once you’ve seen them both—the females have a bulbous base that will eventually become the pumpkin, whereas the male flowers have a small base. Like other squash, pumpkin plants always produce a good number of male flowers before they produce their first female flowers.

Once we harvest our male pumpkin flowers, we remove any of the green stem and either: 1) eat them right there in the garden, 2) add them to a salad, or 3) roll them in pancake batter and cook them in a skillet like a pancake (finished with maple syrup or berries). Pumpkin flowers have a sweet yet earthy flavor that we love.

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