Lotus Eaters


School’s out! And with the summer holiday comes the slowing down of the days, the blurring of our  year-long schedules, and the sheer joy of hanging out and doing nothing. It is the kids who are off school but nothing to stop mom from enjoying the perks of the sumer hols as well! Only one phrase comes to mind – lotus eaters. In Greek mythology the Lotus Eaters were a tribe that lived on an island where the primary food was the lotus plant  – being narcotic in nature, it kept the islanders in a perpetual state of relaxation and drowsiness…therefore the phrase, referring to a life of indolence.

While in the mood of flower eating I must share with you my fresh Italian discovery  – zucchini fiori. A vivid orange and red with lacy petals, these flowers are a delight for the eyes and certainly for the palate. Every week I find myself irresistibly drawn to them at the market, and come home with a big bagful.

Interestingly, there are male flowers  and female flowers; the female of the species is showy and  robust – it has a small zucchini attached.

The male flower by contrast, is delicate and more subtle in it appeal.

Zucchini fiori  are as delicate as they look – so they  need to be handled with care. Essentially that means – don’t squash them in the shopping bag, use them the day they are bought,  rinse them gently in water, and use a light touch when cooking them.

I’ve tried many different recipes with them – friend in tempura batter (yum!), steamed and added to a salad (nice!), in an omlette or stir fry (loses all its special appeal), but my favourite really has to be sautéed flowers – lightly cooked in olive oil with an onion and a small amount of  crushed garlic, and topped with bit of lemon juice and salt. As a light appetizer or a side dish /salad, it’s perfect for the summers. Enjoy your holidays!

And if you’re up to it, read this little extract from Tennyson’s poem Lotus Eaters which describes how some mariners are put into an altered state when they eat the lotus.

Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
To each, but whoso did receive of them
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
And deep-asleep he seem’d, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make


4 responses »

  1. Wow……………………..great writing and great pics accompanying. V interesting, Shruti. What a coincidence, I was reading about Ziccini fiori just this morning that such & such restaurant is serving this dish. I heard it for the first time today. More on meeting you a day after!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. salad sounds nice – will try – have the indian “tori” flower version in my garden – we usually fry it tempura style (yum as you rightly say!) … but the salad seems so inviting. Thanks Shruti!

    • Oh wow. While I was writing this post I kept wondering why we Indians never eat pumpkin flowers which are pretty much the same family…perhaps eating flowers is possible only when there is abundance…and in our context the vegetable would be more precious, and feed more. Let me know how it turns out…and send me pics!

  3. Well written as always, Shruts. Must tell you about a version that my husband and daughter had in Bali (I missed out in my new vegetarian avatar). They were stuffed with mud crab and shrimp.

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