By Jennifer Wickes
Have you ever been to a restaurant where they have served you a beautiful salad with flower petals scattered around the plate? Or maybe you have had a cake decorated with flowers on top? Perhaps you have visited a Tea Room and were served flower syrup. Edible flowers are the new rage in haute cuisine. The look is elegant; yet preparing flowers for eating is simple and fun to do.
The amazing part to edible flowers is that in spite of it being the new rage, eating flowers has been going on for centuries. The first mention of people consuming flowers was as far back as 140 BC! Did you realize that broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes and broccoflower are all flowers? Or that the spice saffron is the stamen from the crocus flower? Capers are unopened flower buds to a bush native in the Mediterranean and Asian nations.
In regions such as the Middle East, Eastern Europe and India, floral waters such as rosewater and orange flower water are used to flavor candies to meats to beverages! France has a spice mixture known as "Herbes de Provence" which has dried lavendar flowers in it. North Africa has an herbal mixture too, which contains rosebuds and lavendar. The green liqueur, Chartreuse, contains carnations.
There are a few cautions one should remember before harvesting any flowers:
(a) Do not harvest any flowers that could have been exposed to animal excretement.
(b) Do not harvest any flowers that have had insecticides sprayed on them.
(c) Do not harvest any flowers that have had fertilizers sprayed on them unless specified for food consumption.
(d) Do not harvest any flowers from the side of roads where they have been exposed to trash, carbon monoxide etc.
(e) If you are unsure if it is edible, then do not eat it. Caution is always the best policy.
(f) If you have any allergies, consult your physician before consuming edible flowers.
(g) Do not eat any flowers from florists as they have been sprayed with pesticides.
(h) Do not pick any flowers that show signs of disease or have been eaten by insects.
Some of the more common EDIBLE FLOWERS in your garden:
Bachelor Buttons AKA Cornflower
Cilantro / Coriander
Cornflower / Bachelor Buttons
Johnny Jump Up
Rose of Sharon
Pick your flowers in the morning when their water content is at its highest. Then bathe the flowers gently in a salt-water bath. Immediately drop them in ice water for 1 minute. Dry on a paper towel. For best results, use your flower petals immediately (not the stamen or the stems), or store the whole flower in a glass of water in the refrigerator overnight.
Flowers can be used for a multitude of dishes:
from garnishes to salads. Try freezing petals in ice cube trays filled with water for a unique addition to your favorite lemonade or iced tea!
1 egg white (please use powdered egg whites to avoid salmonella)
100 proof vodka
superfine granulated sugar
thin artist's paintbrush
violets, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, rose petals, lilac, borage, pea, pinks, scented geraniums
Beat egg whites until frothy. Add a couple of drops of vodka to help the flowers dry quicker. Using fresh picked flowers, paint each flower individually with beaten egg white using the artist's paintbrush. When thoroughly coated, sprinkle with fine sugar and place on the wire rack to dry. Flowers are completely dry when stiff and brittle to the touch. They can be stored in an airtight container and put in the freezer for up to a year. A simple bakery cake can be turned into a work of art by garnishing with candies flowers.
Will last approximately 6 months!
Idea: Try a chocolate cake decorated with fresh raspberries and candied rose petals.
4 cups vodka or brandy
1 - 2 cups flowers
Place lightly bruised petals in a jar with vodka or brandy and steep for 2 days. Then, add sugar and steep for 2 weeks, shaking vigorously once or twice a day to let sugar dissolve. Strain and filter into clean decanter.
rose, carnation, lavendar and mint
orange zest and mint
ginger and pear
peaches and lemon verbena
raspberry and lemon balm
use a dry white wine
1/2 - 1 cup chopped fresh or dried petals
1 lb. sweet unsalted butter
Finely chop flower petals and mix into softened butter. Let mix stand for several hours at room temperature, then refrigerate for several days to bring out the flavour. Can be frozen for several months. Wonderful on breads or used in sugar cookie or pound cake recipes.
use cream cheese
rose, lavendar or sunflower
add some herbs: basil, thyme, garlic
1/2 - 1 cup fresh or dried petals
1 lb. honey
Add chopped or crushed flowers to honey. Loosely cover jar and place in a pan half full of gently boiling water. Remove from heat, and let sit in the hot water for 10 minutes. Remove jar from water and let cool to room temperature. Allow jar of honey with flowers to sit for 1 week. Flowers can then be strained out if desired.
Will last indefinitely in a cool dark place.
Uses: Tea, salad dressings, on croissants, scones, muffins and bread.
2 1/2 cups apple juice OR white wine
1 cup fresh rose petals or scented geranium flowers and leaves
4 cups sugar
1/4 lemon juice
1 - 2 drops food coloring (optional)
3 ounces of liquid pectin
fresh flower petals (optional)
Bring juice or wine to a boil and pour over petals. Cover and steep until liquid has cooled, then strain out flowers leaving only liquid. Combine 2 cups of this flower infusion with sugar, lemon juice and food coloring. Bring to a boil over high heat and as soon as the sugar has dissolved, stir in the pectin. Return to a rolling boil, stirring, and boiling for exactly 1 minute. Remove the jelly from the heat and skim off any foam. Let jelly cool slightly and add more flower petals (if desired), then pour into sterilized jars. If petals do not stay suspended, stir jelly as it cools until petals stay in place. Process in hot water bath or seal with paraffin.
Yields: 4 - 5 half pints
1/2 - 1 cup fresh or dried flowers
1 qt. vegetable oil
Add flowers to bottle of oil and place in a pan of water. Simmer water with bottle in it gently for at least 30 minutes. Remove from stove and cool. Cover bottle tightly, and let steep a week before using. If dried flowers are used, they may be left in the oil. Fresh flowers should be drained after one week as they lose their color.
Uses: Salad dressings, marinades, hot pasta, stir-frying.
Nasturtium and herb blossom oils are excellent for sautéing.
Rose and carnation oils make nice salad dressings.
1-cup water (or rosewater)
3 cups sugar
1/2 - 1-cup flower petals, whole or crushed
Boil all ingredients for 10 minutes, or until thickened into syrup. Strain through cheesecloth into a clean glass jar. Keeps up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Can be added to sparkling water or champagne for a delicious beverage. Or, it may be poured over fruit, pound cake or pancakes.
An Incomplete List of POISONOUS FLOWERS Commonly Found in the Garden:
Golden Chain Tree
Kentucky Coffee Tree
Lily of the Valley
Star of Bethlehem
This article was originally published at Suite 101.
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