Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Edible Flowers Part II

So the holidays are around the corner again and I am heading back to one of my favorite topics, eating flowers. As a small child I was fascinated with the idea of eating flowers. It seemed so exotic, fancy and down right cool. It was something only adults got to do and I wanted in on it. So as soon as I could convince an adult to let me try eating flowers I announced, “This is the best thing I ever ate!” I may have been exaggerating at the time but I still enjoy the beauty and ultimate coolness of eating flowers, which is why they show up every year on my holiday table.

Some Background: The culinary use of flowers dates back thousands of years. Many different cultures have used flowers in their traditional foods. The Chinese have been using daylilies, lotus & chrysanthemums for centuries. Italian & Hispanic cultures use stuffed squash blossoms. American colonists made violet vinegar & mutton broth with marigolds. Odysseus encountered the lotus-eating Sybarites on his way home from Troy. Dandelions were one of the bitter herbs referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Flowers can be consumed raw, cooked, or infused in sauce. All edible flowers can be used as a decoration to a dish or on a tray. They add a distinctive color and taste to cakes, pastries & salads. Vinegar changes the color of the flowers, so it is best to serve the salad dressing on the side. Flowers add elegance to beverages when floating in a punch bowl or frozen in ice cubes. Edible flowers can also be used in teas.

Tips for Beginners

Do NOT eat flowers if you have hay fever, asthma or allergies.

Do NOT eat flowers obtained from a florist, nursery or garden center. Do NOT eat flowers growing on the side of the road

With the widespread use of pesticides by commercial growers, purchase edible flowers from a supplier who grows them specifically for consumption. Due to their popularity, many grocery stores & gourmet markets now sell edible flowers. It is most ideal to grow them yourself, so you know they are completely pesticide-free.

If you decide to grow your own flowers to eat, be certain you know your flowers since not all are edible. Some are poisonous.

Pick flowers on the day you are planning to use them. It is best to pick them in the morning or late afternoon when the water content is high.

Select flowers that are freshly opened avoid flowers that are not fully open (unless buds are desired) or those starting to wilt. Select flowers free of diseased spots or insect damage. Normally, the petals are the only parts to be eaten.

To maintain maximum freshness, keep flowers cool after harvest. Store your flowers, whole, in a container of water and place them in the refrigerator until you need to use them. Blooms and short-stemmed flowers can be kept fresh by laying them between layers of dampened paper-towel

Before use, wash flowers thoroughly in salt water. Perk them up by dropping them into a bowl of ice water for 30-60 seconds; then drain on paper towels. Remove all the green parts, stems and leaves, and any white 'heels' on petals since these parts can often be bitter

Petals can be stored for a day in a plastic bag in the refrigerator - but, ideally, you should use them within a few hours.

Introduce flowers into your diet one at a time in small quantities

How to Crystallize Flowers to Decorate Cakes & Candies: Combine one extra-large egg white (at room temperature) with a few drops of water and beat lightly until the white shows a few bubbles. Using a small paintbrush, paint a thin layer of egg white onto both sides of a clean, dry petal. Gently place the petal into a shallow bowl of superfine sugar to coat the bottom of the petal; sprinkle sugar on top to cover the top of the petal. Gently shake off any excess sugar. Lay the petal on waxed paper to dry. Let the flowers dry completely; they should be free of any moisture. This could take 8 to 36 hours.

A Partial Listing of Edible Flowers:

Anise Hyssop

Apple Bee Balm tea







Day Lily


English Daisy



Johnny Jump-Ups








Prickly Pear




Signet Marigold

Squash Blossom