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Most often when thinking of herbs we tend to think green and leafy, or variations on the theme. More and more however, we find colourful flowers taking their place in the world of food. Not only do they impart distinctive tastes to the foods to which they are added, but they can make them eye pleasing as well.
This month, I thought it would be interesting to look at the various flowers that can be used to enhance flavour as well as create visual appeal in the dishes we present to our families and friends. I see you out there cringing in disbelief, but hold off judgement till you've at least heard me out. I promise, somewhere in this month's column you will find inspiration to try eating a flower or two yourself.
As long as you know for sure the flowers have been grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals, many flowers can be edible. Some markets are even beginning to include edible flowers on their produce shelves though they can be a bit pricey. If a green thumb is part of your repertoire, then consider growing your own, nothing beats picking them fresh from the garden and using them immediately. Beware though that getting these same edible flowers from a florist is not a good alternative because of what is added to them in order to give them prolonged vase life and keep them pest free.
Typically, some of the very same herbs you use in your kitchen produce tasty flowers that are quite palatable. Try snipping sage, bergamot, rosemary, or lavender flowers into your salads along with nasturtium, borage and chive blossoms. Anchusa italica -- a relative of borage -- rose and calendula petals, primroses, and violets can all go into the salad bowl. Or try St. John's wort, yellow potentilla or cinquefoil blossoms.
I've included a list of some other edible varieties of posies (with all due kudos to the folks at the Cook's Thesaurus) to help you further recognize and choose what to plant in your edible flower garden. Please don't experiment with flowers other than those I've mentioned or which are found in the list though. Some flowers just taste bad but others are downright poisonous.
Nasturtiums, violets or rose petals may be substituted
They add a nice peppery flavour
Chive flowers = chive blossoms
Nasturtiums, borage or violets can be substituted
These flowers have a nice clove-like flavour
Golden needles = lily buds = lily flowers
Hibiscus flowers = Jamaica
While these blossoms are pretty, they don't add much flavour
See also nasturtiums
Jamaica = hibiscus = Jamaica sorrel = Roselle
Red zinger tea can be substituted
Johnny jump up
Pansy or violet may be substituted
Use this flower to flavour jellies, baked goodies and grilled meats Parfait d'Amour (a lavender flavoured liqueur) can be substituted
See golden needles
See golden needles
Nasturtiums = Indian cress
Substitute marigolds or pansies
Pot marigold (petals only)
Substitute violet flowers
Squash blossoms = flor de calabaza
Great for garnishes, can be stuffed with fillings and fried, or dipped in a batter and fried like fritters, or sauté them briefly and add them to omelettes or quesadillas