Edible Flowers: More than just a pretty face.


Nothing adds more beauty or charm to a table than a lovely bouquet picked from a summer’s garden. Although unfamiliar to most cooks in the United States many of those same flowers have found their way out of the vase and into the soup, and not by accident adding an unusual and wonderful spice like flavor to a variety of dishes.

Luscious rose petals figure prominently in traditional Persian dishes, daylilies spring up in Asian cuisine, Italian and Hispanic cultures introduced bright-yellow squash blossoms, and in Victorian America, candied lilacs were common confections. Fragrant, flavorful and colorful, edible flowers add an unmistakable dash of drama to any dish. But don’t start eating the centerpiece from last night’s party that is unless it’s from your own non-chemicalized gardens.

A scattering of flowers can make an everyday meal an event. Try one of these ten ways to add flowers to your soups, salads and dips.

1. Tie a bouquet of marigolds with raffia or a strip of chives as a beautiful edible garnish.

2. Fill nasturtiums with guacamole or other light dips.

3. Scatter violas and basil flowers over a bed of greens and serve with lavender-mint vinaigrette.

4. Float whole chive blossoms and minced chives on a chilled cream-based soup.

5. Stir calendula flowers and minced rosemary into basmati rice.

6. Drizzle honey over scoops of lemon sorbet, then sprinkle rose petals on top.

7. Lightly braise daylilies and toss with sautéed mushrooms and butter.

8. Fill hibiscus flowers with small scoops of raspberry sorbet.

9. Freeze violas or pansies into ice cubes for a graceful addition to sparkling water or iced herbal teas.

10. Sprinkle borage flowers and chopped rosemary over cold pasta dishes.

Infuse an oil with the crisp peppery taste of nasturtiums or marigolds. Place one cup of high quality first pressed olive oil in a clear glass quart jar. Immerse the jar in your slow cooker filled with water. Do not boil or tightly cover oil and simmer for twenty four hours. Strain off the flower parts and keep refrigerated. Use for grilling meats, fish and poultry. Be creative with your oil by adding garlic cloves or chili peppers.

Impart the wonderful flavor of rose, lavender or violas to your vinegars. Simply fill a cruet with a good apple cider or light wine vinegar and add lavender, rose or viola petals. Cork loosely and shake daily- the vinegar should prevent the petals from spoilage. (The process can be completed in one day by using the same process as was described for infusing an oil) .In approximately two weeks the vinegar will contain a slight but distinct flavor and aroma of flowers.

Rose petals are particularly flavorful when added to homemade ice creams or sorbet. Rose also mixes well with baked goods containing nuts of all kinds.

Flowers can also be dried by hanging them upside down in a cool, dry spot; use them as you would dried herbs to add flavor, color and whimsy to your favorite dishes. One final note, if you or a family member suffers allergies or asthma use flowers with caution.

Till next time, Rebecca