Stop and eat the roses: Cooking with edible flowers
Contrary to popular suburban belief, flowers are not just for looking at; they make some good eats, too.
I’ve been pretty absorbed with picking and writing about summer berries lately (strawberries, blueberry cornbread), but I got the chance to go a mini wild walk with Canton resident Robb Carr this past week. We explored his garden and the woods for blooming beauties that can also grace the dinner table, and it really got some of my culinary juices flowing.
Why eat flowers when you can just plop them in a vase and enjoy them for their aesthetic value? There are a couple of great reasons aside from the fact that they’ll add a pop of color to dinner!
Flowers are high in antioxidants. They also contain Vitamins A, C, and E. Some store beta-carotene, and others even contain Vitamin D, which most Americans are deficient in. Others contain beta-carotene.
They contain pollen. Many flowers contain pollen (surprise, surprise) which can work the way local honey does to help lessen allergies.
A flower a day keeps the doctor away. Well, don’t quote me on that, but flowers have been used for thousands of years as medicine. Dandelion is a digestive aid, borage is used to treat inflammation problems, and wild pansy has been used to treat hemorrhoids.
Everyone else is doing it! I’m not usually one for jumping on the bandwagon, but in this case I’m happy to make an exception. Flowers are used in nearly all world cuisines, were beloved by American settlers, and animals happily munch on them, clearly intuitively knowing something we seem to have forgotten.
So, how to cook with them? Here are just a few ideas:
- Toss in salads for a bright pop of flavor and color
- Dry and steep with water for nutrient-dense tea
- Decorate cakes and other baked goods with blossoms
- Infuse with olive oil or vinegars for some unique pantry staples
- Get creative! You can add flowers to most anything; sprinkle them on top of any vegetable side dish, on top of baked chicken, add to summer popsicles. The choices are really endless.
Here are just a few of the flowers in bloom at the moment, and some of the specific ways you can use them. Next week I’ll be sharing some of my own recipes and experiments using edible flowers.
Please share the flowers you eat/that you know are edible, and any recipes or stories you have about them in the comments!
They’re everywhere right now, and chances are you have some within 100 feet of your home. The flowers are quite delicate, so they should be eaten the same day you pick them.The petals are delicious in salads and egg dishes, add to eggs or a frittata, but are most frequently cooked the way squash blossoms are — by dipping the whole flowers in batter and deep-frying them. For a slightly less greasy option, try this recipe for blanching them and stuffing them with an herb-y goat cheese mixture.
Elderflowers have a strong scent, which is why their flowers are so incredibly popular for making Elderflower cordials and syrups, which can then be used to make cocktails, vinaigrettes, and baked goods. For an assortment of cordial based recipes, check out this list.
They can also be battered and fried the way daylilies are!
Honestly, these flowers are so vivid and beautiful I struggle to imagine doing anything to them other than sprinkling them on top of fresh green salads. They’re gorgeous as an addition to iced tea or a topping to summer ice cream, but if you’re determined to cook them, candied violets and violas are all the rage, and quite easy to make.
Ice cubes are another fun way to showcase their beauty – freeze one in each ice cube and serve with juice, tea, punch, or cocktails.
These are another gorgeous addition to salads, but the mild, sweet, delicate flower of borage can be enjoyed in many ways – from borage jam to borage and cucumber salad, the recipes are endless.
I’m particularly fond of Borage Lemonade, which is just water, lemon juice, honey, and borage flowers all blended together and served over ice. Here’s a pretty great list of borage recipes.
Tags: edible flowers, how to cook with flowers, north country cooking, upstate new york