Edible Flower Adventure

Beyond the Beauty of a Delicate Bloom On the Plate, Edible Flowers Can Be Used As Flavor Components in Dishes

By Jan Brick
Edible Flowers 

Cooking and garnishing with edible plants is once again in vogue. This nearly lost art is enjoying a revival and is even considered haute cuisine. Preparing food with consumable blooms can be traced to ancient Roman times, as well as in Chinese and Indian cultures; especially popular in the Victorian Era during Queen Victoria’s sovereignty.

Today’s innovative chefs and home cooks garnish with edible plants to add a touch of elegance to their entrees, although they advise that keeping the actual recipe simple is the best practice, letting the blooms figure prominently in the setting. The key is to not include other flavors that may over power the delicate taste of the flower.

The petals are the most flavorful part of edible flowers, while pistils and stamens can be bitter. Do not make an entire meal using these plants, however; use in moderation, overeating them may cause an upset stomach. Folks who have food allergies or asthma should not consume blossoms.

It is recommended to never eat a flower unless you are absolutely confident that it has been grown organically, and never eat blooms purchased from the florist, as they have been chemically treated. It's easier to find organically grown edible plants because many local grocers now sell organic plants for consumption.

Begin by using small amounts as taste tests on the changes that could affect the original recipes. Perhaps shred a few petals over a salad or a dessert, add to a glass of tea, make a blossom butter to serve on bread, or create a floral syrup for pancakes.

Dill, fennel, basil, and chives may be incorporated into tasty soups. Try adding lavender to ice cream to give it a flair of something new. Be as creative as your imagination will allow.



What Do Flowers Taste Like?

Bean blossoms have a sweet, beany flavor. Nasturtiums have a wonderful, peppery flavor similar to watercress and their pickled buds can be substituted for more expensive capers.

Borage tastes like cucumber, and miniature pansies (Johny-Jump-Ups) have a mild wintergreen taste. Banana flowers have an artichoke-like flavor and are a great addition to a salad.

Violets, roses, and lavender lend a sweet flavor to salads or desserts. Other flowers may have a spicy or peppermint flavor.

When in doubt, taste, but first be sure it's not poisonous.

Edible Flowers Tips and Hints

Using edible flowers as a garnish makes any dish look special on your table, but be sure the flavor of the flower compliments the dish. Here are a few ideas to beautify your recipes and perk up your taste buds.
• Place a colorful gladiolus or hibiscus flower (remove the stamen and pistil) in a clear glass bowl and fill with your favorite dip.
• Sprinkle edible flowers in your green salads for a splash of color and taste.
• Freeze whole small flowers into ice rings or cubes for a pretty addition to punches and other beverages.
• Use in flavored oils, vinaigrettes, jellies, and marinades.
• One of the most popular uses is candied or crystallized flowers, used to decorate and fine.
• Asthmatics or others who suffer allergic reactions to composite-type flowers (calendula, chicory, chrysanthemum, daisy, English daisy, and marigold) should be on alert for possible allergic reaction.
• Never use non-edible flowers as a garnish. You must assume that if guests find a flower on a plate of food, they will think it edible.
• Use flowers sparingly in your recipes, particularly if you are not accustomed to eating them. Too much of a pretty thing can lead to digestive problems.
• If you are prone to allergies, introduce flowers in small amounts so you can judge their effect. Some have a much more pronounced flavor than others, so you'll need to judge accordingly.
• The leaves of some flowers also have culinary uses, but be sure to check a trusted food reference source before experimenting.