Many ordinary dishes can be served with a bit of color and style by adding edible flowers. Yes, that's correct - edible flowers. Not only are some of these flowers beautiful, they also have a wonderful smell. Don't start picking flowers from your garden on your next nature walk. Edible flowers can be found in flower beds, however, a word of caution is in order. Be sure that the edible flowers have not been sprayed or otherwise treated with a harmful pesticide. If you are unsure about the treatment of the flowers, ask. We do not advise you to go to the florist and ask for a bouquet of edible flowers! You may, however, find edible flowers in a gourmet grocery store or at a farmer's market. It is also important to know which flowers are safe and which may create havoc with your system.
We have included a short list of edible flowers and a description of their flavors to help you decide what foods may be complimented with edible flowers.
- Bean Blossoms: a sweet, bean flavor
- Borage: cool cucumber taste
- Butterblossom Summer Squash: mild flavor
- Chrysanthemums: aromatic, pungent flavor
- Dandelions: slightly bitter, hint of mushroom
- Johnny-Jump-Ups: mild wintergreen flavor
- Marigolds : citrus flavor, pleasantly bitter
- Nasturtiums: peppery flavor
- Violets: subtle, delicate flavor
- Roses: take on the taste of whatever they're mixed with
The flowers and buds on common herbs such as basil, chive, sage, rosemary, and thyme are also edible.
How do you use edible flowers?
Edible flowers can be used in many different eye-catching and delicious ways. It's usually the petals of flowers that are edible (and the most tasty). Most can be eaten in salads and make beautiful garnishes for just about any dish. Try substituting small amounts of one of the flowers above for herbs in dishes you normally make.
Nasturtiums are a wonderful addition to a salad (add them last for an exquisite splash of color). The red, yellow, and orange flowers make a beautiful garnish for cheese trays, soups, poultry, cakes, and even drinks. Try pickling nasturtium buds in tarragon vinegar to use instead of capers.
Violets can be used fresh, dried, or candied. They are particularly well-suited to desserts. To make violet tea, steep one teaspoon of leaves or flowers in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes.
To reduce bitterness, dandelion flowers should be boiled for a couple of minutes before being eaten. The French make dandelion salad with bacon, vinegar, and garlic croutons. Dandelion leaves can be eaten raw in salad. Beware of roadside dandelions, as they may contain toxic levels of lead.
Borage can be eaten raw or cooked: the leaves of this blue flower are often added to salads. The flowers can be candied or soaked in wine or iced tea for extra flavor.
Try garnishing a main dish with rose petals or using butterblossoms as a mild flavoring in soups and salads. Rose petals also greatly enhance any dessert. A store-bought cake garnished with rose petals becomes a work of art. If you're a little more adventurous, try marinating rose petals in milk for a delicious custard or pudding treat.
Packaged or wrapped tightly in plastic, edible flowers can last up to one week in the refrigerator.
Be careful when choosing edible flowers, and discourage children from eating any kind of flower without first checking with an adult. When in doubt, don't eat it. If you stick to the flowers sold as "edible flowers," you have nothing to worry about. Or, grow your own in a sunny windowsill, pesticide-free. If you grow your own, pick them in the early morning when the blossoms are fresh and moist.
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