Saturday, June 27, 2009

Edible Flowers

Walking a tour group through the garden yesterday, I noticed the yellow water iris are blooming. I probably wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t been pointing out the useful plants in the landscape. Sometimes we’re just too busy to stop and smell the flowers. When we do, we might consider that they’re also edible. Not all of them, of course, so it’s important to know which ones are and which ones aren’t.

A friend once mistakenly served her family tulip bulbs. Her mother-in-law had given her a bag of bulbs and onions. She didn’t know the difference and saved the onions to plant in the fall and served the tulips in the Swiss steak. They suffered no ill effects other than missing out on the blooms the next spring.

The flowers of many herbs are edible and that fact should be fairly obvious since many of them are made into teas. Think chamomile, hyssop, bee balm and mints, just to name a few.
Marigolds, carnations, Johnny Jump-ups, violets, bachelor’s buttons, nasturtiums and clover are common flowers that are edible.

Marigolds add their golden color when sprinkled on soups, pasta and rice dishes. They taste spicy to peppery depending on the variety and can be used to jazz up herb butters, salads and scrambled eggs.

Johnny Jump-ups have a mild wintergreen flavor and look lovely sprinkled in salads, adorning frosted cakes or accompanying soft cheeses in appetizers.

Violet flowers and leaves are both edible as are nasturtium’s. Violets can be compared to spinach and nasturtiums sport a peppery flavor. We had a limited supply of nasturtium vinegar a couple of years ago. Blossoms added to those bottles made them extra special.

Carnations, clover and bachelor’s buttons all have sweet petals and can be used accordingly. The bases or bud ends of these flowers are often bitter so separate the petals from the base before using.

Be sure to use flowers that are free of pesticides or other contaminants. Wash as you would any other food.

Eating flowers is a trend that comes and goes. It’s back, now, so don’t be surprised if your entrĂ© in a favorite restaurant is garnished with flowers. Brighten up your home cooking, too, and surprise your family.