Edible Flowers – part 1

I am sure that most of use have memories of eating honeysuckle blooms while growing up, but there are so many more flowers we can add to our meals. Some pack flavor, some add fragrance, and they all add life and fun to our meals. This week I want to list off a few flowers that are easy to grow and easy to access. Let’s start enjoying something besides honeysuckle (not that I won’t get my fill in a few weeks).

First and foremost, as with any food it is imperative that the sourcing and quality are considered. With flowers it is even more important because they are often directly sprayed with chemicals for bug control, mold prevention, and many other things. Never collect flowers that you aren’t certain about. There is a local trail in the city that has lovely flowers, but is sprayed yearly to keep the plant life from getting to close to the walkway. Even though it is easily accessible, it would be a horrible quality.

The flowers I’ve listed below are easy to find and grow in your own garden. I always prefer to start from seed so that I know the plant has never been treated with anything I don’t care to ingest.

Bergamot

Also called bee balm, bee’s friend besides its medicinal and food qualities this is a great thing to have in your garden for pollinators. I grew this in our old home and when it was in bloom I could always expect to fight the honey bees for its blooms. The color ranges from red, light pink, and light purple. It grows about 4 feet tall and has a 3 foot spread, but I am certain it could go further if it wanted. In my yard it was in partial shade and thrived. We never gave it any special attention and it came back every summer (which is a major bonus in my book).

The easiest, and most pleasant thing that can be done with bergamot is making a tisane. (Tis-zahn is an herbal infusion made with any plant that is not specifically a tea plant which is what black tea is made from. As far as most people know, tea is soaking a plant in hot water and drinking it. But if you want to get technical tea is only sweet tea and black tea, maybe Earl Grey. Tisane is everything else like peppermint and chamomile.)

The leaves have a more herb-y essence about them and the flowers are more floral as far as flavor profiles. They can be used together, separately, or added to a tea mixture like orange pekoe for a fun change of pace. Another great use of the flowers is to add them to a salad. A spring greens mix with bergamot and nasturtiums would be a fun thing to serve at a party. Doesn’t a salad filled with flowers sound more appealing than, well, any other salad? Let’s be honest – salad is (usually) boring.

Viola

Violets, viola, pansies, they are all related. Specifically the viola I’m talking about would be Johnny-Jump-Up which is larger than a sweet violet you might find growing in your yard, but not as big as the pansies you would by at the store. They come in a variety of colors and are grown from seed. Seed Savers Exchange is the best place to find organic heirloom seeds.

These plants stay small and low to the ground as they come up in mid spring, but they will flower throughout the summer. Another great fact about these flowers is that they will grow well in shady areas of the garden which makes them perfect for someone who has a lot of trees.

Because this flower is not extremely fragrant there is a fun treat that can be made with them: crystalized flowers. It is not a quick craft that can be whipped up for company, but is a worthwhile project for a special event such as baby showers, bridal showers, mother’s day, or anything like that.

You will need:

1 egg white

2oz castor sugar

1 new arts and crafts paint brush

Lots of whole flowers or individual petals

This is best done the day of or day before the event as these flowers do not store. Castor sugar is not the same as powdered sugar. Powdered sugar will not produce the crystal affect. Powdered egg white can be substituted for raw egg white if there are any concerns. Be sure to handle the flowers and petals as little and gently as possible in order to keep them fresh looking. Set the project up on a surface where you can be seated. Have the sugar and egg white in separate containers.

Going one at a time, take the flower or petal in one hand and with the paint brush paint on the egg white on the front, back and insides of the flower.

Immediately bring flower or petal to the castor sugar and spring the sugar over both sides and into the center of the flower, gently shaking off excess sugar.

Place on parchment paper until ready to be used.

These can be added to cakes as edible decoration, they can go on top of cupcakes, or set around on serving platters and drink trays as a fun piece of décor.

Chives

These babies are a versatile and durable must for any garden. They do well in sun or shade, garden or containers, and the whole plant can be used. These are more than just a garnish on your baked potatoes, chives add a delicate, onion-y flavor to savory dishes. I have to say that my favorite function of chives is not food related. They are known for repelling Japanese beetles. At my previous home my rose blossoms were eaten to pieces by Japanese beetles one year, so I planted a small chive plant right next to it. The next year and for a few after that, I never had a problem with Japanese beetles in that spot. In my new flower bed I preemptively planted chives next to my baby rose bush to avoid any issues.

The chive blossom, like many allium blooms, is edible. Pick the freshest flower head available and snip off the individual florets to use as a garnish on eggs. Or mix the florets with sage flowers in butter for an herbed butter spread for dinner rolls or to go on potatoes, rice, carrots, any starchy veggie that needs a little punch.

Herbed butter is a fun project. Unsalted butter would be best for sweet flowers and herbs like lavender and rose. Salted works for savory things like garlic blooms or rosemary. Allow to butter to come to room temperature then add whatever flower you are using. If making a sweet treat it is great to add some confectioner’s sugar to the unsalted butter.

Roll the butter in wax paper and store in the fridge to use within a month or freeze for long term storage.

Growing up I never did this stuff. For me a fun thing to eat was a second Little Debbie cake. Who would have thought that years later I would be adding rose petals to my butter? (Apparently, a lot of people. I took a poll.) Anyway, the point is, God has provided so much for us to enjoy in nature besides the super obvious fruits and vegetables we grew up with. Seek it out, teach it to your kids and friends, give it away to neighbors.

Source:

Brown, Kathy “The Edible Flower Garden” Ed. Lindsay Porter. Wigston, Leicestershine. Anness Publishing Ltd. 2011. Print,

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