Using edible flowers in cooking is not a new concept but after falling out of favour for many years, cooking and garnishing with flowers is back in vogue once again.
Most herb flowers have a flavour that’s similar to their leaves, but spicier, and are usually best when just opened though some are harvested whilst still in bud. Large blooms can be picked individually with or without the stalks and the smaller ones such as lavender (Lavendula spp) have either the flower head cut and used whole or are separated into florets. For specific purposes, only parts of the flower may be required such as the petals from calendula or the flower heads of borage.
Use some of these edible flowers in your next recipe:
· NASTURTIUM (Tropaeolum majus) Flowers, flower buds and nectar spurs are delicious in salads and sandwiches and their peppery flavour goes particularly well with soft cheeses and egg dishes. Flowers are used in vinegars.
· BORAGE (Borago officinalis) Fresh flowers are added to salad or used in a garnish but turn pink on contact with acids such as lemon juice or vinegar. They are also candied as cake decorations or floated in fruit juices or punches.
· SAGE (Salvia sp.) Pineapple sage flowers are delicious in fruit salads & desserts. Clary sage flowers can be used in salads and made into tea.
· POT MARIGOLD (Calendula officianalis) Petals are used as a substitute for saffron in rice and soup, and infused to give colour to cheese, milk desserts of cakes. Petals can also be added fresh to salads.
· SWEET VIOLET & HEARTSEASE (Viola odorata & Viola tricolour) Flowers are added to salads, used as a garnish, or frozen in ice cubes for summer drinks. Sweet violet flowers can also be candied or added to vinegars and syrups.
· ENGLISH LAVENDER (Lavandula angustifolia) Fresh flowers are crystallized or added to salads, jams and jellies, ice cream, and vinegar. Leaves and flowers are used for herbal teas. Only English Lavender is edible, do not use other varieties.
· CHRYSANTHEMUM (Chrysanthemum x morifolium) Flowers are cooked or pickled in Oriental Cuisine. Petals are used to make tea or to flavour China tea or added to soup.
· CHIVES & GARLIC CHIVES (Allium sp.) Flower buds of both garlic chives and chives are added to salads, soft cheeses and stir fries. These are also particularly nice folded in to the centre of an omelette with extra ham and cheese.
· SQUASH, ZUCCHINI & PUMPKIN (Cucurbito) Blossoms are delicious deep fried in a Tempura batter or can be used as a garnish or thrown in to a soup towards the end of cooking.
· HOLLYHOCK (Alcea rosea syn.) Petals and cooked flower buds can be added to salads.
· CLOVE PINK (Dianthus caryophyllus) Fresh petals, with the bitter white base removed, are added to salads, candied, pickled in vinegar, and made into syrup.
· HYSSOP (Hyssopus officinalis) Hyssop flowers can be added to salads.
Other flowers worth trying are: Basil; Thyme; Rosemary; Lemon Balm; Mustard Flower; Oregano; Rose; Savory; Poppies; Ranunculus; Hibiscus; Chamomile; Runner Bean Flowers.
But a final word of caution, not all flowers are edible and those purchased from florists should not be eaten as these have probably been sprayed with pesticides. Ensure that the flowers that you use have been grown without the use of any chemicals which, in your own garden, is not only the best way to grow these beautiful delights but is also the healthiest for both you and your family.