I just read an article that said that cooking and garnishing with flowers is back in vogue again after falling out of favor for many years. You see this a lot on some of the TV cooking shows and I have experienced this myself at a few of our most upscale restaurants. I used to have a neighbor when I lived in Wixom, a couple named Chris and Marti Baumgartner, who did a lot of foraging and you should never be surprised that when invited for any meal, Marti had included one or two varieties of flowers in the meal. I was afraid of Marti…I didn’t trust her…I didn’t believe she knew enough about what she was harvesting to know if it was safe or not. We lived at 12 Mile Rd. and Grand River. 12 Mile Rd. was the onramp for the expressway and I can tell you that a lot of cars went down that road…by the second, the minute and the hour. Traffic was non-stop and there was no telling how toxic the growing conditions were along the road. Just no tellin’!
My past fears aside, I think that people are once again enjoying their edible flowers because it is a practical thing to do. The movement back to more simpler times, when what we smelled or tasted was more natural…organic, I believe has a lot to do with it. I know there are plenty of people who never left the bandwagon, like vegetarians, who legitimately may think what’s the fuss. If you were to open a magazine like Vegetarian Times, you will not only see advertisements about herbal or flower-based remedies and supplements, but recipes that feature flowers in one way or another on a pretty regular basis.
If you read the right magazines or cookbooks and watch the right television cooking shows, you already know that there are a lot of ways to use edible flowers in your meals and the secret to success when using edible flowers is to keep the dish simple, do not add too many flavors that will over power the delicate taste of the flower.
For your culinary enjoyment I have prepared a short list of edible flowers exclusively from the flower category. Other categories that you should be aware of include, herb flowers, vegetable flowers and fruit. Regardless of the category, there is one universal rule…
GROW YOUR OWN FLOWERS!!!
Commercially grown or roadside flowers can be extremely toxic. You have no idea as to what has been used to make them grow. Plus, many flowers even though they are edible have parts that are hard to digest or are harmful and then there those that are completely poisonous. So by growing and harvesting your own, you will always know that what you are eating is not harmful to you and your family. Don’t be a “Marti,” okay?
The blooms that you can eat will make a decorative, tasty addition to any meal you prepare. Add flowers to salads and stir-fries or you can add them to a wide variety of foods like herbal teas, jellies, spreads, vinegars and marinades.
You can prepare flowers for use by harvesting the bloom right before eating and give it a gentle rinse. Follow whatever your recipe calls for at that point whether you are using them raw or have to blanch them.
- Calendula (Pot Marigold), tangy-flavored orange or yellow flowers. Can be used like Saffron. Use in soups, pasta, rice dishes, herb butters and salads.
- Chrysanthemums, tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange. They range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. Can also be used to flavor vinegar.
- Dandelions, member of the Daisy family, these flowers are sweet when picked young. They have a sweet, honey flavor. Young leaves taste good steamed or tossed in salads.
- Dianthus (Sweet William), clove-like flavor
- Impatiens, this flower has a sweet flavor. Can be used as a garnish in salads or floated in drinks.
- Nasturtiums, red, orange or yellow flowers that brighten up salads. Blooms have a spicy, peppery flavor that is reminiscent of arugula or watercress.
- Pansy, the blooms have a mild vegetable flavor and is often used to decorate cakes and salads.
- Roses, the flavor depends on the type, color and believe it or not, the soil conditions. Its flavor can be reminiscent of strawberries or green apples. Sweet, with subtle undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice. All roses are edible, with the flavor more pronounced in the darker varieties. Many uses include as a garnish on ice cream and desserts, sprinkled on desserts and salads, and in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads.
I must reiterate how important it is to not eat roses that have been exposed to systemic fertilizers or disease control rose food. You very well could be digesting those properties and they will make you sick!
- Tulips, the beautiful blooms of this plant have a mild, vegetable flavor.
Did I miss anything? What have you tried and enjoyed?
Dandelion Wine Recipe
3 qts. Dandelion Flowers
1 lb. Golden Raisins
1 Gal. Water
3 lbs. Granulated Sugar
Yeast and nutrient
Pick the flowers just before starting, so they are fresh. You do not need to pick the petals off the flower heads, but the heads should be trimmed of any stalk. Put the flowers in a large bowl. Set aside 1 pint of water and bring the remainder to a boil. Pour the boiling hot water over the dandelion flowers and cover tightly with a cloth or plastic wrap. Leave for two days, stirring twice daily. Do not exceed this time. Pour flowers and water in a large pot and bring to a low boil. Add the sugar and the peels (peel thinly and avoid any of the white pith) of the lemons and orange. Boil for one hour, then poor into a crock or plastic pail. Add the juice and pulp of the lemons and orange. Allow to stand until cool (70 – 75 degrees F.). Add yeast and yeast nutrients, cover and put in a warm place for three days. Strain and pour into a secondary fermentation vessel (bottle or jug). Add the raisins and fit a fermentation trap to the vessel. Strain and rack after wine clears, adding reserved pint of water and any additional required to top up. Leave until fermentation ceases completely, then rack again. Set aside for 2 months and again rack and bottle. The wine must age six months in the bottle before tasting, but will improve remarkably if allowed a year.
Do you want to learn more? Maybe you should attend some of Urban Garden Education Series Classes put on by the Garden Resource Program Collaborative/The Greening of Detroit. There is a fee for non-members. Set your calendar for
- Sunday, July 7th “Wild Edible Weeds: Edible & Medicinal Weeds”
- Thursday, September 27th “Herbal Health: Teas, Tinctures & Salves”
For more information go to www.detroitagriculture.net or call Lindsay Pielack at the Greening of Detroit (313) 285-2300
- Edible Flowers To Impress Your Dinner Guests (proflowers.com)
- Spring flowers – just in time to eat! (thebotanicalbaker.wordpress.com)
- 42 Flowers You Can Eat (articles.mercola.com)
- Edible Flowers (quazen.com)
- Exploring Edible Flowers : Hibiscus Sorbet Recipe (boisdejasmin.typepad.com)
- 8 Edible Flowers from around the World (tripbase.com)
- Please Don’t Eat the Hyacinths (But it’s okay to drink the dandelions) (mycookinglife.com)
- What’s For Dinner? Marigolds (gocstoresblog.com)
- Which Flowers Can Grow in Pots? (proflowers.com)