Flowers aren't just for looking at and smelling. Quite a few of them are edible as well. Our massage class held a fundraiser by gathering recipes from the students and making a cookbook with them. Of course we had to have a party to taste all the dishes. The one that stood out in my mind the most, was a gorgeous, delicate salad that was predominately flower petals. The light perfumed flavours danced across the tongue like a scented breeze.
Now that I live in a house with a large flower garden, I thought I would do some research and see which ones were edible and what I could do with them.
Before we go any further though, please read this list of Dos and Don'ts
Following are some simple guidelines to keep in mind before you eat any type of flower:
Eat flowers only when you are positive they are edible. If uncertain, consult a good reference book on edible flowers prior to consumption.
If pesticides are necessary, use only those products labeled for use on edible crops. No flowers is safe to eat unless it was grown organically
Wash all flowers thoroughly before you eat them.
Introduce flowers into your diet in small quantities one species at a time. Too much of a good thing may cause problems for your digestive system.
Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating. Separate the flower petals from the rest of the flower just prior to use to keep wilting to a minimum. Eat only the flower petals for most flowers except pansies violas, and Johnny-jump-ups (in which they add flavor).
If you have allergies, introduce edible flowers gradually, as they may aggravate some allergies.
Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.
Do not eat flowers picked from the side of the road. Once again, possible herbicide use eliminates these flowers as a possibility for use.
Just because flowers are served with food served at a restaurant does not mean they are edible. Know your edible flowers - as some chefs do not.
It's easy and very attractive to use flowers for garnish on plates or for decoration, but avoid using non-edible flowers this way. Many people believe that anything on the plate can be eaten. They may not know if the flower is edible or not and may be afraid to ask.
Picking Edible Flowers:
Pick your flowers in the morning when their water content is at its highest.
What Part of the Flower To Eat:
The Following information is from the book, Edible Flowers - From Garden To Palate, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash:
Remove the stamens and styles from the flowers before eating. The pollen can detract from the flavor of the flower. In addition, the pollen may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals. Remove the sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies.
Only the petals of some flowers such as rose, calendula, tulip, chrysanthemum, yucca, and lavender are edible. When using just the petals, separate them from the rest of the flower just prior to use to keep wilting to a minimum. Others, including Johnny-jump-up, violet, runner bean, honeysuckle, and clover can be eaten in their entirety.
Roses, dianthus, English daisies, marigolds and chrysanthemums have a bitter white portion at the base of the petal where it was attached to the flower. Break or cut off the bitter part off the petal before using.
Cleaning Edible Flowers:
Shake each flower to dislodge insects hidden in the petal folds.
After having removed the stamen, wash the flowers under a fine jet of water or in a strainer placed in a large bowl of water.
Drain and allow to dry on absorbent paper. The flowers will retain their odor and color providing they dry quickly and that they are not exposed to direct sunlight.
Preserving Edible Flowers:
To preserve flowers, put them on moist paper and place together in a hermetically-sealed container or in plastic wrapping. This way, certain species can be preserved in the refrigerator for some 10 days.
If the flowers are limp, they can be revitalized by floating them on icy water for a few moments; don't leave too long or else they will lose some of their flavor.
You can also store the whole flower in a glass of water in the refrigerator overnight.
Candied flowers and petals can be used in a variety of imaginative ways - to decorate cakes large and small - all kinds of sweet things, such as ice cream, sherbet, crèmes and fruit salads, cocktails.
1 egg white or powdered egg whites
Superfine granulated sugar (either purchased or made in a blender or food processor - just blend regular sugar until extra-fine)
Violets, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, rose petals, lilac, borage, pea, pinks, scented geraniums, etc.
Wire rack covered with wax paper
Carefully clean and completely dry the flowers or petals.
Beat the egg white in the small bowl until slightly foamy, if necessary add a few drops of water to make the white easy to spread.
Paint each flower individually with beaten egg white using the small paintbrush. When thoroughly coated with egg white, sprinkle with superfine sugar.
Place the coated flowers or petals on wax paper on a wire rack. Let dry at room temperature (this could take 12 to 36 hours). To test for dryness, check the base of the bloom and the heart of the flower to make sure they have no moisture. Flowers are completely dry when stiff and brittle to the touch. NOTE: To hasten drying, you may place the candied flowers in an oven with a pilot light overnight, or in an oven set at 150 degrees to 200 degrees F with the door ajar for a few hours.
Store the flowers in layers, separated by tissue paper, in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
The cheese can be prepared 24 hours in advance of serving. Use flat chunks of cheese, with edible rinds, in a variety of shapes. (Cheddar, Jack, Brie, or Camembert, in round, wedge, or square shapes)
Edible flowers or herbs
2 cups dry white wine
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
Lay the flowers and herbs flat on top of the cheese in the presentation that you want to display.
Then remove the flowers and herbs, lay them aside in the pattern you want to display them.
In the medium size saucepan over medium heat, combine the white wine and gelatin. Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and the mixture is clear. Remove from heat and put the saucepan in a larger container filled with ice. Keep stirring as it thickens, NOTE: Stir slowly so you don't create bubbles. (If it gets too thick, you can reheat and repeat.)
Place the cheese in a dish to catch the drippings from your glaze.
Spoon the glaze over the cheese and spread evenly. After a few minutes it will become tacky to the touch, then you can "paste" on your flowers in the design pattern you planned.
Refrigerate about 15 minutes; then remove from refrigerator and spoon more glaze over the flowers.
NOTE: Make as many layers of glaze as necessary to cover your decorations - can be three layers for a thick design. If the glaze thickens up too much, just reheat and replace in ice.
Making Flower Petal Tea:
2 cups fresh fragrant rose petals (about 15 large roses)*
3 cups distilled water
Honey or granulated sugar to taste
*All roses that you intend to consume must be free of pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops. The tastiest roses are usually the most fragrant.
Clip and discard bitter white bases from the rose petals; rinse petals thoroughly and Pat dry
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, place the prepared rose petals. Cover with water and bring just to a simmer; let simmer for approximately 5 minutes, or until the petals become discolored (darkened).
Remove from heat and strain the hot rose petal liquid into teacups. Add honey or sugar to taste.
Makes 4 servings.
Making Blossom Ice Cubes:
Gently rinse your pesticide-free flower blossoms.
Boil water for 2 minutes for all the air trapped in the water to escape. Remove from heat and let the water cool until room temperature. NOTE: This will ensure that the ice cubes are crystal clear.
Place each blossom at the base of each individual compartment within an ice tray. Fill each compartment half full with the cooled boiled water and freeze.
After the water is frozen solid, fill each ice cube compartment the rest of the way to the top with the remaining boiled water. Freeze until ready to use.
Making Flower-Infused Syrup:
1 cup water (or rosewater)
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 to 1 cup edible flower petals (whole or crushed)
In a saucepan over medium heat, add the water or rosewater, sugar, and edible flower petals; bring to a boil and let boil for approximately 10 minutes or until thickened into syrup. Remove from heat.
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.
Makes about 2 to 3 cups syrup.
How To Make Flower Butter:
1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh or dried petals
1 pound sweet unsalted butter, room temperature
Finely chop flower petals and mix into softened butter. Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature overnight to allow the flavors to fuse.
Chill for a couple of weeks or freeze for several months.
The author, Linda Stradley, and What's Cooking America have researched all the mentioned edible flowers. However, individuals consuming the flowers, plants, or derivatives listed on this web page, do so entirely at their own risk. Neither the authors or What's Cooking America can be held responsible for any adverse reaction to the flowers.
This site has a list of edible flowers for you to experiment with.
They also have a yummy looking recipe for Lavender Jelly, that I can't wait to try someday. Saltspring Island has a wonderful organic lavender farm. I think I will make a trip there this summer to get some good quality lavender so I can try this recipe.