Edible Flowers Gaining Popularity
Edible flowers are one of the most overlooked ingredients in modern culinary practice. For most people the idea of edible flowers rarely if ever occurs to them, as flowers and other decorative plants tend to be limited to aesthetic roles. The fact is that many species of edible flowers exist and make excellent additions to salads and other light, fresh meals.
Fortunately this reality is starting to become more widely known and greater numbers of chefs are including them in professional gourmet dishes. Also popular is the use of edible flowers at home, especially when entertaining guests during the spring and summer months. Salads, desserts and even drinks all benefit from the creative application of beautiful edible flowers.
Varieties of Safe Edible Flowers
One problem with using edible flowers as an ingredient is that most people don’t really know which varieties are safe to eat and which ones will cause you to visit the hospital. We’ve put together this guide to outline the most common and safest varieties to help you plan tasty meals for your friends and family.
Before we begin with the guide we’d just like to point out that, like all aspects of cooking, using edible flowers requires some basic safety procedures. Always wash your edible flowers to take care of pesticides and herbicides that might have been sprayed. Never (we can’t stress this enough) assume that an unknown species bears edible flowers – always stick with ones you know are safe.
Now for the list:
· Herbs – Worth a mention is the fact that most herb plants sport edible flowers which can be used for a variety of dishes much like the rest of the plant. The flowers usually retain some or most of the flavor of the other parts, and can be a creative and unique way of preparing a traditional dish.
Common herb flowers are basil, sage and chives.
· Violas and Pansies – Both species have safe-to-eat edible flowers and, aside from looking great, lend themselves well to salads and other fresh dishes. They are also suitable for linking desserts due to their pleasant wintergreen flavor. An alternate idea is to grind the flowers in a food processor with sugar to create tasty syrup for cakes and pastries.
· Roses – Typically eaten are the rose hips of the plant, but the flowers can be tasty as well. It’s generally believed that the older varieties are the best for this, and you can generally tell which roses will taste best by the pleasantness of their fragrance. Similar syrup as described above can be made by blending roses with sugar, and makes a delightful addition to many desserts.
· Bee balm – The edible flowers of the bee balm plant are widely believed to taste similar to oregano. As such, they can be effectively used in salads, blended into herb butters and creams and even sprinkled onto cooked vegetables or pasta.
· Lavender – These beautiful edible flowers make a delicious tea if you steep the petals in hot water. You can also use them to flavor ice cream and pastries or add them to salads where their mild taste will not overcome any of the other ingredients you’ve included.
· Nasturtium – Nasturtiums are common garden plants and have a wide range of colorful edible flowers that make them a great choice to have around. The petals have a distinct peppery taste and are very commonly added to butter for flavor to create a very good alternative to regular varieties.
Creative Uses for Edible Flowers
Edible flowers are a great ingredient and an excellent way to enhance regular foods. If you are entertaining guests you can count on positive and surprised reactions if you decorate salads and desserts with colorful and tasty petals. It’s still largely considered unorthodox, so this creative display will earn you much esteem in many eyes.
You may also wish to use petals to flavor or decorate alcoholic drinks. Floating on the surface of attached to the edge of a glass the petals can transform a drink into a work of art. This unusual tactic will leave guests looking forward to their next visit.
If you have further questions or could use some inspirational suggestions about edible flowers, your local florist is a good person to speak to. Head on down to their shop and ask about which varieties they recommend for consumption. They might even be able to recommend recipes they have used themselves. If the plants are sold in their shop you can often buy them right then and there and bring them home with you.
Again, remember our safety tips when working with flowers or any other unfamiliar food item. Safety is paramount when cooking and can prevent a lot of potential hardship if you follow careful routines.
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