Edible flowers have long been used in cooking for decoration and flavoring. They make a beautiful garnish, but they can also be an integral part of any recipe. Different flowers bring unique flavors and colors to a dish. Some flavors are just the thing for sweet dishes, while other flowers are more suitable to savories. While some vegetable flowers and wild plant foods might require a foraging expedition or a visit to the local health food market, many edible flowers are available for convenient home delivery. Clever cooks can get flowers delivered in the evening so that they are fresh and in time for dinner.
Before committing to a recipe, make sure you are not allergic to any of the flowers you will be using. Asthmatics are known to have problems with certain composite flowers while some edible flowers may still contain saponins and other potentially harmful oils. Consult your doctor before you add flowers to your diet and use caution with you plant choices. As you are getting used to fresh flowers in your diet, use them sparingly to avoid gastro-intestinal distress. Many flowers can take the place of popular herbs with a similar flavor. Mild teas made of different flowers will also help you acclimate.
Soup and Salad
The soup bowl almost begs for the addition of colorful flowers. Bean flowers coordinate well with chili and lentil soups. Lilac melds well with some Greek soups and refreshing cucumber-based summer soups. Experiment with spicy or pungent edible flowers in hot and sour soup.
Salads crave fragrant blossoms. Pair savory and sweet flowers for an interesting contrast or accent. Marigolds and chrysanthemums work as savory additions to fresh salad. Despite the somewhat spicy aroma, gardenias provide a nice contrasting sweet flavor to bitter lettuces. Bean blossoms make a colorful alternative to bean sprouts, while day lilies or gladiolas add to the lettuce crunch.
Garnish, Appetizers and Entrees
Flower honeys and jellies can be a cruelty free way to replace honey in recipes. These honeys are simple syrups combined with a flower infusion. The amount of flower petals can vary, but typically flower honeys take four cups of petals, three cups of water and two cups of sugar. Petals steep in two cups of water for six hours before you strain them out. Dissolve sugar in the remaining cup of hot water. Cook until the syrup is clear and slightly thickened. Add the flower infusion to the syrup. Dandelion honey benefits from the addition of a steeped whole vanilla bean and lemon. Very fragrant roses produce a honey with a citrus zip. Honeysuckle and red bud make a light, sweet honey.
Edible flowers make colorful and interesting appetizers. Consider serving them as hors d’oeuvres at your next get-together. Deep fried dandelion buds taste just like fried mushrooms. Serve them with a Thai dipping sauce for a spicy treat. Remove the stamen and pistol of a hibiscus or gladiola and serve stuffed with rice, pine nuts and spices. Top with silky tofu or sprinkle with flower garnishes that complement the base flower in both color and flavor. Crystalized or candied flowers make pleasant garnishes, but they also go well on the party tray as pretty sweets. Steamed sunflower buds or petals easily take the place of cooked artichoke.
Flowers really shine when lightly sauteed in the wok. Most flowers do not handle over-cooking very well, so their time on the stove should be limited. Squash flowers stand up well in stir fry, but a light sprinkling of lemon flowers can help enhance the flavor of fresh ginger. Chrysanthemums have a spicy, clove flavor which strengthens during the cooking process. Pickled nasturtium buds take the place of capers. Calendulas and safflower can take the place of expensive saffron in many recipes, from Spanish rice to veggie paella.
A fast flower delivery makes it possible to bring fresh edible flowers to the table for special occasions and dainty, everyday fare. Flowers add a new dimension of flavor and color to a simple meal or they shine on the party snack tray. Flower honey and jellies take the place of traditional jams and syrups. They bring a new dimension to soups and salads or sautee in the wok.
About the Author
Patricia Hall works part-time for Serenata Flowers an online florist in UK and loves to surround herself with flowers at any given point of time. Even in her free time she loves to involve herself with everything flora and fauna.
‘To me there is nothing more beautiful and global as the language of flowers – it is the easiest to understand all around the world in the same way. That is one reason why I truly admire flowers for what they represent in some ways – unity of all mankind!’
~The Vegan Project