On with the article....
Take a bite of marigold muffins, and the sunny essence of summer butters your taste buds. Sip jasmine-laced punch and taste the soft perfume of flower petals. Whether you savor candied violets, hibiscus sorbet, or lavender mousse, you'll be indulging in the ancient pleasures of edible flowers.
Indeed, centuries before blossoms were appreciated for their beauty, they were prized for their delectability. In cultures as diverse as pre-Christian Rome, dynastic China and imperial Persia, flowers were a culinary staple. Not until the Industrial Revolution, when technology made more foods widely available, did the taste for flowers fade.
In the current climate for healthful eating, edible flowers have blossomed anew. Harvested from ornamentals, herbs, and vegetables, flowers now flavor appetizers, salads, soups, main dishes, and desserts. Flowers can be candied, jellied, pickled, deep-fried, sauteed, steamed, and stuffed.
Crystallize pansy and apple blossoms with egg white and sugar for cake decorations. Dip Acadia and elderberry flowers into batter for fritters and use hollyhocks as colorful cups for dips and seafood salads. Fill squash blossoms with any savory mousse and brew teas by steeping chamomile or rosemary in boiling water.
Flower cookery can be as simple as strewing basil blossoms atop sliced tomatoes, spooning scented-geranium leaves into the sugar bow, floating garlic chive rosettes in vinegar, or topping fruit with pineapple sage trumpets. Fold bee balm into soft butter or cheese for a spread, mix roses into cookie dough, and sprinkle calendula on pasta, rice and eggs.
Some blooms, such as woodruff and hoeysuckle, are sweetish; others, such as nasturtium and arugula, are pungent. Day lilies hint of chestnut, gladiolus's taste like lettuce, and tulips like asparagus. Borage is cool as cucumber, carnations spicy as cloves.
Experimentation is tempting, but first be sure the flower is edible. Many specimens, including foxglove, iris, daffodil, and sweet pea, are poisonous by nature. Also, those grown for the florist trade usually are toxic from pesticides and other harmful chemicals used in greenhouses and nurseries. If you are uncertain, consult poison control centers, horticultural organizations, or reliable reference books. The best bets are to raise flowers organically and obtain plants from specialty growers or garden catalogs. Edible flowers also are turning up at gourmet grocers, farmer's markets, and supermarkets.
It's little wonder that cooks are clamoring for these natural ingredients that are both traditional and novel.
BOOKS ON EDIBLE FLOWERS
- Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palate, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado, 1993.
- Flowers in the Kitchen, by Susan Blesinger, Interweave Press, Loveland, Colorado, 1991.
- Taylor's Pocket Guide to Herbs and Edible Flowers, edited by Ann Reilly, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1990.
- Cooking with Flowers, by Jenny Leggatt, Balantine-Fawcett-Del-Rey-Ivy Books, New York, 1987.
- Edible Flowers, by Claire Clifton, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1984.
- The Forgotten Art of Flower Cookery, by Leona Woodring Smith, Harper & Row, New York, 1973.
- A Feast of Flowers, by Francesca Tillona and Cynthia Strowbridge, Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1969.
Recipes with edible flowers
Try these recipes from Lane Furneaux, author of Heavenly Herbs, Love Letters Edition (Ladybug Press, Dallas, 1994.)
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1-2 fresh-snipped lavender leaves
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
Sprinkling of lavender blossoms
In a mixing bowl beat shortening, butter, and lavender leaves with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds or until softened. Add about half of the flour, the sugar, eggs, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat until combined, then beat or stir in remaining flour. Gently stir lavender blossoms into mixture.
Drop dough from teaspoon 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove cookies and cool on wire rack. Makes about 40 cookies.
- Article was originally written by Rosemary G. Rennicke