Spring beauty inspired me to write about edible flowers. Eating flowers isnít a new concept in many cultures. We eat or drink the flowers of some plants, such as fried zucchini blossoms and rose hip tea. They are the blooms harvested before they have the chance to turn into the fruit of the plant. But most people think of flowers of the fragrant varieties, the species that make it into bouquets. And guess what? Most of them are edible, too!
Beautiful flowers, whole or petals, add beauty, fragrance and flavor to your dishes. Usually, they are tossed into fresh salad greens or scattered on other dishes as an edible garnish so they will retain their vibrant color and fragrance instead of wilting. It might seem off-putting to eat something that smells like roses, but that is a cultural matter. Rose water is a common ingredient in sweets and candies, for example, in the Mediterranean. And do you recall grandmotherís chalky lavender candy that came in a small tin?
Which types of flowers are edible? Many! Here is a short list:
*Japanese honeysuckle, blooms only not berries
If you prefer a flower that has no scent, choose a zucchini blossom later this summer and dip it into tempura batter and deep fry it. It will be light, crisp and delicious. But if you are more adventurous, try other varieties of edible flowers. Choose organic, wash well and pat dry. Use them in the following recipes:
*Flower Petal Cream: Blend some chopped flowers into whipped cream and top cupcakes or fill layered cakes with it. Donít forget to garnish the tops with more whole or chopped flowers!
*Spring Bouquet Salad: sprinkle whole or chopped flowers on fresh greens. Great way to dress up a salad made of a single vegetable, such as spinach. Use a light olive oil citrus dressing with citrus juice in place of vinegar in your usual recipe.
*Sugared Petals: Beat one egg white until foamy and, using a small pastry brush, coat flower petals or whole flowers with the egg wash. Sprinkle on super-fine bakerís sugar and allow to air dry before using the petals to top hot buttered toast, muffins, cakes and cookies.
*Flower Ice Cubes: Freeze clean whole flowers in ice cubes.
*Flower Teas: Drop flowers into tea cups and pour in hot (not boiling) water.
*Flower Sugar: Let fresh flowers steep in small bowls of sugar, covered, for a day or two to infuse the granules with fragrance. Or crush them in with a pestle and then let the sugar airdry.
*Flower Cocktails: Add fresh petals to alcoholic drinks, seltzer or fruit punches.
*Gelatins: Make clear or light colored gelatin in small individual cube-shaped molds. Just as the gelatin is cooling but not set, gently push in a whole flower into the center. Allow the gelatin to complete the gelling process in the refrigerator.
Adding fresh flowers to your dishes and drinks is a good way to turn every ordinary day into a holiday.