Halgrimson: Flowers add flavor to foodIf your garden is as full of flower blooms as mine is, you’re in for a feast. While not all flowers are edible, many can be used to flavor and decorate summer food.
By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM
If your garden is as full of flower blooms as mine is, you’re in for a feast.
While not all flowers are edible, many can be used to flavor and decorate summer food.
A few of the blossoms in my garden that I use are borage, calendula, chive, day lily, dianthus (pinks), geranium, lavender, nasturtium, pansy, rose, snapdragon, squash, tulip and violet. If you are not sure a flower is edible, check a good reference at the library or on the Internet.
Do not eat flowers from florists or nurseries, which may be contaminated with chemicals. And do not dress up a plate with flowers that are not safe to eat.
Flowers must be treated as any edible crop and kept free of pet waste and chemicals. All I use in my garden are sterilized sheep manure, homemade compost and peat. For bugs, I add a few ounces of whisky to a spray bottle and fill with water.
Pick flowers in the morning and refrigerate them in a plastic bag. Before serving, remove pistils and stamens, wash petals and dry on a clean towel.
There are many ways to incorporate flowers into a menu: Sprinkle in soups and on salads; stir into an omelette; mash into butter; add to biscuits, sweet breads, cookies and cakes; toss in a pasta dish or a fruit compote; brew into a tea; and freeze in ice cubes.
And don’t be afraid to experiment. Taste various blooms and imagine a dish to which they would add a little excitement.
Violets and pansies can be dipped into beaten egg white and then superfine sugar, dried on waxed paper and used to decorate cakes or other desserts.
Large blossoms such those on a squash plant are good for stuffing, dipping in batter and frying. To savor the flavor of summer in the following seasons, use flowers to add depth to wine vinegar.
And if you don’t want to mess around, just use them to decorate a dinner plate.
I’ve used the following recipes in previous columns, but they are standbys in my kitchen so I pass them on again.
1 cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Grated rind of 1 orange
Grated rind of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons fresh calendula petals or 2 tablespoons dried
Butter an 8-cup (9-by-5-by 3-inch) loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment. Butter parchment. Cream butter and sugar and add beaten eggs a little at a time. Sift flour with baking powder and fold into creamed mixture. Stir in citrus rinds and flower petals.
Pour into pan and bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 1 hour. Halfway through baking, sprinkle top with extra sugar if desired. Cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan to a rack. Serve when just cool, cut in thin slices. Cake keeps well and can be frozen.
Adapted from “The Miniature Book of Flowers as Food” by Jane Newdick and Mary Lawrence
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 375° F. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and lavender. Combine flour and baking powder and add to lavender mixture, stirring until well blended. Drop by teaspoonful on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned on edges. Cool on baking sheet for a minute or two, and then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.
Adapted from “Cooking with Herbs by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead.”
Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at email@example.com