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May 2001 Issue
Edible Beauty -- Flowers as Food
by Rossana S. Tarantini
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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.

Flower Notes
Apple blossoms
Borage Nasturtiums, violets or rose petals may be substituted
Carnations They add a nice peppery flavour
Chamomile
Chive flowers = chive blossoms
Chrysanthemums
Clary Nasturtiums, borage or violets can be substituted
Daylily
Dianthus These flowers have a nice clove-like flavour
English primrose
Geraniums
Golden needles = lily buds = lily flowers
Hibiscus flowers = Jamaica
Hollyhock
Impatiens While these blossoms are pretty, they don't add much flavour
Indian cress See also nasturtiums
Jamaica = hibiscus = Jamaica sorrel = Roselle Red zinger tea can be substituted
Johnny jump up Pansy or violet may be substituted
Lavender Use this flower to flavour jellies, baked goodies and grilled meats
Parfait d'Amour (a lavender flavoured liqueur) can be substituted
Lemon blossoms
Lilac
Lily buds See golden needles
Lily flowers See golden needles
Mimosa blossoms
Nasturtiums = Indian cress Substitute marigolds or pansies
Orange blossoms
Pansy
Peach blossoms
Plum blossoms
Pot marigold (petals only)
Roselle See Jamaica
Rose petals Substitute violet flowers
Sage blossoms
Snapdragons
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
Tiger lily buds See golden needles
Viola, violet Substitute nasturtium or borage or pansy

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