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Edible Flowers For Your Cooking
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The culinary use of flowers dates back thousands of years with the first recorded mention was in 140 BC. Many different cultures have incorporated flowers into their traditional foods. Oriental dishes make use of daylily buds, the Romans used mallow, rose and violets, Italian and Hispanic cultures gave us stuffed squash blossoms, and Asian Indians use rose petals in many recipes. Did you know Chartreuse, a classic green liqueur developed in France in the seventeenth century, boasts carnation petals as one of its secret ingredients? And, dandelions were one of the bitter herbs referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Some flowers look beautiful as garnishes, but they also taste nice. Bean blossoms have a sweet, beany flavor. Nasturtiums have a wonderfully peppery flavor similar to watercress and their pickled buds can be substituted for more expensive capers. Borage tastes like cucumber, and miniature pansies (Johnny-Jump-Ups) have a mild wintergreen taste. Violets, roses and lavender lend a sweet flavor to salads or desserts. Bright yellow calendulas are an economic alternative to expensive saffron, though not quite as pungent. Others may have a spicy or peppermint flavor. When in doubt, taste!

  • Where to get them from…
  • With the widespread use of pesticides by commercial growers, it's important to select edible flowers from a supplier who grows them specifically for consumption. Do not eat flowers obtained from a florist. Your best bet is to grow them yourself, so you know they are completely pesticide-free. Many grocery stores and gourmet markets now sell edible flowers. If you are choosing homegrown flowers to eat, be certain you know your flowers, as not all flowers are edible. Some can cause serious stomach problems and some are quite poisonous. Pick homegrown flowers in the morning or late afternoon when the water content is high.

  • How to use them…
  • Select flowers that are freshly opened, perky and free of any bug-eaten or diseased spots. Normally, the petals are the only portion to be eaten, with the notable exception of safflower and crocus (saffron) whose stigma are prized as an herb. Be sure to wash flowers thoroughly by bathing them gently in a bath of salt water. Perk them up by dropping into a bowl of ice water for 30-60 seconds, and drain on paper towels. Then carefully remove petals or other parts to be consumed. You may wish to trim off the whitish part of the petal where it connects to the stem as it can often be bitter. It's best to store flowers whole in a glass of water in the refrigerator until you need to use them. You can store petals for a day in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, but your optimum goal should be to use them within a few hours.

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September 19, 2017

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