Fruits and vegetables are not the only edibles grown in the garden…flowers provide tastes and textures for our plate and palate…a whole new culinary cornucopia. So why not brighten up your plate with some floral accents ?
Some people tend to think it rather odd to eat flowers and will leave them behind on the plate, but this skeptical attitude has only taken root in recent time. Flowers, with all their brilliant colors and scents, have been used in cooking and healing for thousands of years. In China and Japan, people have cultivated chrysanthemums, hibiscus, jasmine, lilies, orange blossoms and more, specifically for eating. The Romans loved lavender flowers, lilies, and almost all herb flowers and after sumptuous banquets would take a tonic made from violets to help tame a hangover. Pot marigolds, pinks, [or Dianthus] jasmine, lavender, hollyhocks and nasturtiums were essential plants grown in Elizabethan times, when huge salads, soups and cold dishes were lavishly decorated with these edible flowers.
Decorative and delectable, edible flowers have become a consuming passion once again for many gardeners. In my organic garden you’ll find a selection of edible flowers grown happily amongst herbs and vegetables and old roses:
Overflowing pots of peppery nasturtium flowers and foliage, both colorful and lush, are a natural addition to salad greens. For a fresh new appetizer, try these brightly colored blooms, stuffed with walnut goat cheese, egg salad or guacamole.
A simple fruit salad scattered with jasmine, lavender buds, and rose petals is a tasty delightful sight, while a pound cake with a simple white glaze can be transformed with crystallized rose petals and violets. I still have a precious jar of sugared violet blooms I found in a tiny shop in Paris that I use on special custard desserts. And, delicately flavored rose petal scones and herb tea are a grand favorite with friends attending my garden workshops.
The flowers of most herbs can be used in hot and cold dishes and in refreshing summer drinks: try borage flowers in ice cubes and ice bowls studded with brilliant flashes of blooms make dazzling serving dishes for summer desserts, such as flower petal sorbets and ice creams, or try amazing baked pineapple topped with rich red pineapple sage blossoms. And one of my special dishes for luncheon guests, delicious daylily blooms stuffed with chicken salad floating on a green bed of romaine garnished with the saffron-colored plucked petals of calendula.
Of course, some of the flowers I grow have much more flavor than others…the attractive mustard yellow flowers of fennel have a sweet anise flavor while blooms from jasmine, lavender, chives, roses, pot marigold, pansies, violets, rosemary and thyme have the strongest and most diverse flavors. But whatever the taste, all edible flowers look wonderful combined with food.