Wednesday’s In the Know: Edible Flowers, Fresh from the Garden of Melissa’s Produce
Ever strolled through the market and seen edible flowers? They may seem too gorgeous to eat, or slightly intimidating in the same fashion, but edible flowers are a great finishing touch and added sophistication to any dish it adorns. It’s a simple touch of elegance that can quickly take ordinary to extraordinary levels.
How would you use edible flowers?
Edible flowers are great to add texture, aroma, color and flavor to anything that it touches. Whether candied, used as a garnish, minced and added to butter, jams and jellies, in marinades or vinaigrettes, teas, cocktails or simply as a gorgeous show-stopping finishing touch, edible flowers have gained mass appeal over the last several years.
A few varieties of edible flowers as provided by WhatsCookingAmerica.net:
Begonia – Tuberous begonias and Waxed begonias –
· Tuberous Begonias (Begonia X tuberosa) – The leaves, flowers, and stems are edible. Begonia blossoms have a citrus-sour taste. The petals are used in salads and as a garnish. Stems, also, can be used in place of rhubarb. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism.
· Wax Begonias (Begonia cucullata) – The fleshy leaves and flowers are edible raw or cooked. They can have a slight bitter after taste and if in water most of the time, a hint of swamp in their flavor.
Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus – aka Dianthus) – Carnations can be steeped in wine, candy, or used as cake decorations. To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Dianthus are the miniature member of the carnation family with light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Petals add color to salads or aspics. Carnation petals are one of secret ingredients that has been used to make Chartreuse, a French liqueur, since the 17th century.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) – Member of the Daisy family. Flowers are sweetest when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. Dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers: best to pick these when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball. Good raw or steamed. Also made into wine. Young leaves taste good steamed, or tossed in salads. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.
Marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia – aka T. signata) – The marigold can be used as a substitute for saffron. Also great in salads as they have a citrus flavor.
Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) – The flavor of lilacs varies from plant to plant. Very fragramt, slightly bitter. Has a distinct lemony taste with floral, pungent overtones. Great in salads and crystallized with egg whites and sugar.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) – Sweet honey flavor. Only the flowers are edible. NOTE: Berries are highly poisonous – Do not eat them!
Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) – The flowers have a sweet flavor. They can be used as a garnish in salads or floated in drinks.
Primrose (Primula vulgaris) – Also know as Cowslip. This flower is colorful with a sweet, but bland taste. Add to salads, pickle the flower buds, cook as a vegetable, or ferment into a wine.
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) – Also known as Wild Carrot and Bishop’s Lace. It is the original carrot, from which modern cultivars were developed, and it is edible with a light carrot flavor. The flowers are small and white, and bloom in a lacy, flat-topped cluster. Great in salads. NOTE: The problem is, it is closely related to, and looks almost exactly like another wild plant, Wild or Poison Hemlock, which often grows profusely in similar habitats, and is said to be the most poisonous plant native to the United States. The best way to differentiate between the two plants is to remember that Queen Anne’s Lace has a hairy stem, while the stems of Wild Hemlock are smooth and hairless and hollow with purple spots.
Roses (Rosa rugosa or R. gallica officinalis) – Flavors depend on type, color, and soil conditions and can be reminiscent of strawberries and green apples with subtle undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice. All roses are edible, with the flavor being more pronounced in the darker varieties. Miniature varieties can garnish ice cream and desserts, or larger petals can be sprinkled on desserts or salads. Petals also look great when frozen in your ice cubes. To do this, simply add them to an empty ice cube tray, fill with water and freeze.
Now before you head to your garden with your kitchen sheers, its important you know which flowers are safe to eat as not all are edible and can actually be toxic. When in doubt, purchase edible flowers from a reputable supplier, like Whole Foods or Bristol Farms.
Where can I purchase edible flowers:
Look for edible flowers in pre-packaged containers – by the fresh herbs in the produce section - at your local retailer. My favorite variety is from Melissa’s Produce for not only their quality but attention to maintaining the integrity of each product they carry, even beyond those gorgeous petals. Farmers markets also carry them on occasion, but ensuring your flowers are pesticide free is critical!
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