Monday, June 7, 2010

Nutritious Edible Flowers to Eat

Flower cookery has been traced at Roman times, and to the Chinese, Middle Eastern, Greek and Indian cultures. Edible flowers were especially popular in the Victorian era during Queen Victoria's reign. Many cultures use flowers in their traditional cooking think of squash blossoms in Italian food and rose petals in Indian food. Adding flowers to your food can be a nice way to add color, flavor, and a little whimsy. Some are spicy, and some herbaceous, while others are floral and fragrant. The range is pretty surprising.

It’s not uncommon to see flower petals used in salads, teas, and as garnish for desserts, but they inspire creative uses as well roll spicy ones (like chive blossoms) into handmade pasta dough, incorporate floral ones into homemade ice cream, pickle flower buds (like nasturtium) to make ersatz capers, use them to make a floral simple syrup for use in lemonade or cocktails. The secret to success when using edible flowers is to keep the dish simple, do not add to many other flavors that will over power the delicate taste of the flower.

Eating flowers safely
Certain flowers have been shown to contain important nutrients. Others are poisonous. If you have varicose veins or hemorrhoids, or any kind of circulatory problem, pay close attention on it and follow the tips for eating flowers safely.
  • Eat flowers you know to be fresh and delicate if you are unsure, consult a reference book on edible flowers and plants.
  • Eat flowers you have grown by yourself, or know to be safe for eating. Flowers from the florist or nursery have possibly been treated with pesticide or other chemicals.
  • Do not eat roadside flowers or those picked in public parks. Both may have been treated with pesticide or herbicide, and roadside flowers may be polluted by car exhaust
  • Eat just the petals, and remove pistils and stamens before eating.
  • If you suffer from allergies, introduce edible flowers gradually, as they may worsen allergies.
  • To keep flowers fresh, place them on wet paper towels and refrigerate in an airtight container. Some will last up to 10 days this way. Ice water can invigorate limp flowers.
Some of the edible flowers to eat
Calendula / Marigold
A great flower for eating, calendula blossoms are peppery, tangy, and spicy–and their vibrant golden color adds dash to any dish.

Carnations / Dianthus
Petals are sweet, once trimmed away from the base. The blossoms taste like their sweet, perfumed aroma.

A little bitter, mums come in a rainbow of colors and a range of flavors range from peppery to pungent. Use only the petals.

Citrus (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, kumquat)
Citrus blossoms are sweet and highly-scented. Use frugally or they will over-perfume a dish.

Famously used in hibiscus tea, the vibrant cranberry flavor is tart and can be used sparingly.

These super-fragrant blooms are used in tea; you can also use them in sweet dishes, but sparingly.

Sweet, spicy, and perfumed, the flowers are a great addition to both savory and sweet dishes.

The blooms are pungent, but the floral citrusy aroma translates to its flavor as well.

The flowers are surprise minty. Their intensity varies among varieties.

One of the most popular edible flowers, nasturtium blossoms are brilliantly colored with a sweet, floral flavor bursting with a spicy pepper finish. When the flowers go to seed, the seed pod is a marvel of sweet and spicy. You can stuff flowers, add leaves to salads, pickle buds like capers, and garnish to your heart’s content.

Remove the white, bitter base and the remaining petals have a strongly perfumed flavor perfect for floating in drinks or scattering across desserts, and for a variety of jams. All roses are edible, with flavor more pronounced in darker varieties.

Flowers taste like a milder version of the herb; nice used as a garnish on dishes that incorporate rosemary.

Squash and Pumpkin
Blossoms from both are wonderful vehicles for stuffing, each having a slight squash flavor. Remove stamens before using.

Petals can be eaten, the bud steamed like an artichoke.