Enlightened Cusine – The Edible Flower
The garden is blooming—even in NYC! So much time in the restaurant is spent working with herbs and other local produce, so it is time to share the passion for the edible garden… and for flowers. So how do you cook with your flower garden?
An edible flower garden is beautiful to see, smell and actually eat. Flowers that are edible are a mystery to many, in addition to the many ways to use them in food. What is awesome about edible flowers is that they are beautiful, taste good raw, steamed, fried, candied, blended, marinated, dried, frozen… and can accompany any dish whether it be an appetizer, salad, main course, sauce, dip, dessert, beverage or part of a vegetarian, vegan, meat, poultry, or fish option. Edible flowers can be used fresh as a garnish or as an integral part of a dish. And yes, flowers add a beautiful colorful tasty vegetable addition to your plate or meal, and most of them also offer health remedies.
Here is a starter list of flowers to grow in your garden, or buy at your farmer’s market and add to your plates (Go organic so you are not ingesting any of those pesticides, which might make you sick): ** indicate my favorites ………..
Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cyanus)- Very mild flavor – Color: Blue, White, Pink – the petals and caylyx are edible – Used as in teas, as well as garnishes in soups and desserts.
Begonia (Begonia X tuberosa) – Crisp Citrus flavor, which varies with variety flower – note: only hybrids are edible. (The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism.) Color: White, Red, Pink, Orange – Use steamed with veggies or chop and add to salads or add as a beautiful garnish to any dish
Bergamot (Moranda didyma) – Sweet spicy flavor – Color: Red, Pinks, Purples – Use petals in salads, pasta dishes, stuffings and jellies. Also use steeped in teas.
**Borage (Borago officinalis)-Also known as the star flower – Fresh Cucumber-like Flavor – Color: blue or white – Use whole flowers frozen in ice cube, crystallized as part of a dessert, in jelly, as a beautiful garnish or use in salads and sauces. (Try mixing with nasturtium)
Chive blossoms (Allium schoenoprasum)- Onion flavor – Color: Purple in general – Use whole blossoms as garnish or a dish wanting an onion balance. Try with carrots or potatoes. In salads, pastas, eggs, make a chive butter or vinegar
Clover (Trifolium pratense) flavor – Color: White, red, purple – Use peals in salads or freeze into ice cubes, infuse into wine or tea.
Garland Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium)- Mild peppery flavor – Color: – Use petals in soups, dips and vegetable dishes.
**Day Lily (Hemerocallis) – Mangetout (snowpea) with a peppery aftertaste flavor – Color: orange, red, white, yellow, pink – Use only buds and flower petals in stirfries, soups and salads. (Note: don’t overdo eating them or you will spend more time in the bathroom than most). Popular in China.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) -Young flowers have a bittersweet slightly honey type flavor – Color: Yellow- Use whole flowers with vegetables, or try petals and flowers with bean dishes or steep into a tea, The leaves if eaten before the flowering stage can also be eaten in a salad or blanched. (The leaves may become bitter after flowering.) (Note: flowers close quickly once picked)
Elderberry (Sambucus Canadensis)- Sweet Flavor- Color: White-
(Note: do not wash flowers since it removes much of the flavor)
Fuchsia (Fuschia arborescens)- Tangy sweet flavor depends on variety– Color: – Use cooked stems and leaves as you would spinach. Blooms left whole are beautiful in a salad or crystallized with dessert.
Scented Geraniums (Pelargonium) – mild flavor for the flowers, the leaves can be citrusy to spicy– Color: Mauve, pink, purple, white – Use in salads, or as garnish or crystallize for desserts.
**Herb flowers (rosemary, oregano, dill, fennel, parsley, basil, sage, arugula, etc.) – Generally milder in flavors than the herbs itself – Color; varies, blues, purples, greens, yellows, ivory – Use flowers to garnish dishes and also use in the dishes that you use the herbs themselves
Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – Citrus flavor – Color: reds, oranges, pinks, whites – Best Used in beverages. Try steeping flowers in liquids for drinks and desserts; float in punch bowls (Compliments rosemary…. And the combination of the two is thought to be an aphrodisiac.)
**Lavender (Lavendula species)– Floral perfumed flavor- Colors: purples, whites, blues – Use in either sweet or savoury dishes. Steep flowers in liquids for drinks, use in desserts like chocolate, ice creams and sorbets, try with honey or jellies, use in breads, lamb or poultry dishes. (Note: Lavender oil should not be consumed.)
Marigold (Tagetes erecta) -Slightly bitter flavor- Colors: reds, yellows, oranges, variegated – Use by adding petals to yogurt, pasta sauces, flavored butters, try with potatoes and chives.
Pot Marigold (Calendus officinalis) – Mild pepper flavor – Colors: Orange, yellow, cream, apricot – Use dried in large quantities to flavor soups and stew in the winter. Use petals in conserves, syrups, wines, oils, vinegar, butter, and bake into puddings. Also use petals in omelets, or try whole flowers to flavor soup and rice dishes. Can be used dried or fresh. (Generally used more for color than flavor, as it is nicknamed the poorman’s saffron.)
**Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – Peppery type flavor – Colors: Usually orange or red– Use whole or chopped in salads, pasta, vegetable dishes. Beautiful garnish to anything that likes a little pepper taste, including hearty mushrooms and even a steak. Can be pickled and used like capers. (Note: both flowers and leaves are beautiful and tasty.)
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)- Honey like flavor – Color: Yellow – Use in salads, or fruity meringues. Crystallize blossoms for desserts. Freeze to make floral ice cubes or serve with sorbets. Also try petals in jams & vinaigrettes.
**Rose (Rosa)- Sweet flavor- Flavor depends on variety and the scent. The more heavily scented roses will have a better flavor – Color: almost every. But the older varieties with more fragrance tend to be in the red and pink family.- Use the petals crystallized in and on desserts, or try floating petals in drinks, hot and cold. Try making in jam, honey, or syrups. One of the oldest species of roses is the Rosa Mundi, and has an excellent flavor. (Louise Odier and Gertrude Jekell so have excellent flavor.) The Cecile Brunner variety great crystallized.
**Squash / Zucchini blossoms – Courgettes (Courcurbita pepo) – Flavor is a milder version of the squash they derive from – Color: Generally yellow/ orange – Use by stuffing them with herbs, vegetables and cheeses. Great, raw, cooked or fried, and can be eaten hot or cold. Use cooked with tomato sauce, or stuff them raw with vegetables, rice, dried fruit, herbs, meat or fish. Also try adding to omelets. Use opened flowers and remove the green parts.
Sunflower (Helianthus annus)– Similar in flavor to an artichoke – Color: yellows to reds – Use blanched buds then steam or sauté them. Use uncooked petals in salads, or try in pastas, stirfries and purees. The seeds can be hulled an eaten raw.
**Sweet Violet (Viola odorata)– Sweet floral flavor – Color: generally purples and whites Use flowers in salads, steep them in syrup or crystallize them for dessert garnishes. Can be cooked to make a candy paste. Infuse them in a vingarette for salads or to use as a marinade on fish, poultry or vegetables. Infuse in tea.
**Viola (Viola) – Subtle sweetly scented pretty flower – Color: white, cream, yellow, blue, purple, black and several bicolors. Try: Johnny jump ups, Mollie Sanderson, Rebecca, Mrs. Lancaster, and more…. – Use in salads, as a garnish, crystallize for desserts, freeze in ice cubes, use with ice creams and sorbets.
The moment I get out of that restaurant basement kitchen, all I want to do is glory in the beauty of the sun, rain, clouds, moon… To see and consume the natural fruits and vegetables of the garden brings me a smile and energy.
Flowers recipes to follow in my next postings.
For Further Reading
- Belsinger, Susan. 1991. Flowers in the Kitchen; Interweave Press; Loveland, Colorado.
- Barash, Cathy Wilkinson. 1997. Edible Flowers: Desserts and Drinks. Fulcrum Publishing; Golden, Colorado.
- Barash, Cathy Wilkinson. 1993. Edible Flowers From Garden to Palate. Fulcrum Publishing; Golden, Colorado.
- Brown, Kathy. 2008. Edible Flowers; 25 Recipes and an A-Z pictorial directory of culinary flora; Aquamarine; London, England.
- Herst, Sharon Tyler. The Food Lover’s Companion, 2nd edition. Barrons Educational Service, Inc.
- Kowalchik, Claire and William H. Hylton, editors. 1987. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Rodale Press, Inc.; Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
- Peterson, Lee Allen. 1977. Edible Wild Plants. Houghton Mifflin Company; New York.
- Shaudys, Phyllis V. 1990. Herbal Treasures. Garden Way Publishing; Pownal, Vermont.