With the warm, sunny months upon us, the season of flowers has arrived. While those colorful, sweet-smelling plants make lovely decorations and gifts, they can also add some surprising flavor and delight to your spring and summer menus. Many varieties of flowers are edible, and they can bring a new twist to traditional dishes, and make some delicious innovations happen in your kitchen.
The most important thing to remember about searching for edible flowers is that it’s only safe to consume flowers that have been grown organically. Most flower-producing farms aim for the decorative market, so they use pesticides and weed-killers that can be toxic if eaten. Many organic farms grow food-safe flowers, though it’s rather simple to grow your own from organic seeds at home. Always make sure to check with your producer before using flowers in the kitchen. Also be aware that plant allergies carry over into cooking, so you’ll want to remove the pollen-producing elements of every flower you use, and wash them thoroughly.
Many species of flowers that we commonly think of as purely decorative can make for some excellent dishes. Roses, for instance, lend a unique sweetness to salads, garnishes, and desserts. They also add a surprisingly tasty note to fowl such as game hen, and to sweet fish like salmon when used as a bed in place of lettuce.
For simplicity, try a crisp violet salad. With the stems removed, violets pair excellently with cucumber, cool greens, and mild peppers. They favor nutty dressings for their deferential flavors, so dress them in a hazelnut or almond vinaigrette.Add fragrant rose petals to salads, desserts, and even salmon.The lovely Signet Marigold has a distinct lemon-like flavor without the acidity of citrus, so thinly slicing their petals and mixing them into soup or potatoes can bring a nice zest to the final dish. They also make for a delectable bisque and improve anything featuring crab.
And don’t forget about colorful nasturtiums! They can be grown easily in a window box or container, and have a sweet, peppery taste that complements spinach salads and light spring soups perfectly. Don’t be afraid to use these edible blooms generously.
When it comes to dessert, nothing works quite as well for adding a naturally sweet note as flower water. The petals of any fragrant, edible flower can be used to make a simple distillation at home that will add a wonderful flavor to ice cream, pudding, and a wide range of cocktails.
Directions: In a sturdy pot, elevate an empty bowl on top of a cooking stone or clean garden brick, then surround the brick with flower petals and water. Bring the water to a simmer for 10-20 minutes with the pot lid inverted and a bag of ice anchoring the lid. This will cause the oils from the petals and the water to condense on the lid and fall into the bowl. Occasionally collect the distillate from the bowl until the flowers are spent. This clean, subtle tincture has a thousand uses and can be quite potent, so use it carefully.
The next time you’re planting flowers, think about choosing some delicious edible varieties that will look as pretty on a plate as they do in your yard!