"the thing perhaps is to eat flowers and not to be afraid"
It’s funny that anyone should be afraid to eat something as lovely as a flower, yet many of these edible delights go unplucked in our gardens, and thus unenjoyed in our kitchens. Edible gardening guru Rosalind Creasy, author of The Edible Flower Garden, has been serving scrumptious edible petals to dinner guests for years, and is no longer surprised when her dishes are met with hesitation. “People believe that flowers are almost magical, so beautiful that only the eyes should feast on them,” she says. Creasy and other edible flower enthusiasts such as Denise Schreiber, author of Eat Your Roses, encourage us to shed the skepticism. For Schreiber, “Eating flowers is one of the true pleasures in life, providing sustenance to our senses and renewing our joy in food.”
Edible flowers boast a range of flavors and aromas, including light and citrusy (lemon and orange blossoms, tuberous begonias); piquant (bee balm, mustard, nasturtium); bitter (calendula, chrysanthemum, English daisy); floral (apple, daylily, violet); sweet (tulip); and pleasantly perfumey (jasmine, lavender, rose). The blossoms of some plants, such as arugula, broccoli, chives and fennel, simply taste like milder versions of the parts of the plant that we normally eat.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find many of these delicious edibles in your own garden throughout the growing season. Nongardeners may find them at farmers markets and grocery stores with good local produce selections. You might even spot a container of edible blooms near the boxed salad greens in a major supermarket—Melissa’s is a nationally available brand that also sells online.
When harvesting blooms from the home garden, remove the pistils and stamens; eat only the petals. Always avoid flowers from nurseries and florists, which have probably been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides, and those from roadsides or other potentially contaminated outdoor sites. Taste flowers before using them; flavors may vary throughout the season or from one variety of a particular plant to the next.
Using edible flowers is a little like adorning our bodies with jewelry. Sure, there’s skill in coordinating one item with another, and there are a few general rules we follow, but it’s also about having fun, showing off and making a statement. The ways to enjoy edible flowers are numerous, but here are a few
• Infuse petals into honey, jelly, simple syrups, liqueurs and vinegars.
• Add dried buds to sugar and salt for a whisper of flavor.
• Add petals and flower heads to salads both for flavor and added texture.
• Steep edible flowers in teas.
• Garnish soups, entrèes, desserts and fruit salads with attractive blossoms.
• Blend flowers into butter, soft cheese, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products.
• Garnish cakes with candied flowers. Learn how to candy flowers.
• Freeze pretty petals in ice cubes or toss them into the punch bowl.
Beware that not all flowers are safe to eat. For lists of toxic flowers, consult Eat Your Roses by Denise Schreiber; Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palate by Cathy Wilkinson Barash; or The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy. The flowers of the following plants are not only edible, but also tasty:
|Anise hyssop||English daisy
|Bachelor button||Guava||Prickly pear|
|Begonia (tuberose)||Honeysuckle||Red clover|
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