It is fascinating to eat a plant in every stage, from a micro plant, to a blossom and then finally to a fruit. Each step of the way, the plant is giving its all, and we can enjoy it, every bite of it!
I remember as a kid, my father told me that the huge Tiger Lilies growing by the side of my childhood home were edible. I was fascinated
as we stood together watering the huge garden of the showy, bright blossoms. I was spellbound as I watched my dad pluck a petal off one flower and pop it into his mouth. Immediately I was hooked.
That summer, I was eager to show off my edible garden to neighbors, relatives and anyone who came to the house during the prolonged Tiger Lily season. Each summer after that, I would impatiently wait for the blooms to appear. I still smile every time I see the dramatic flowers. It was a magical time in my childhood and so much of what I do daily has everything to do with my father and his enjoyment of all things gustatory.
Flowers are not just intended to look lovely in a vase; many are delicious to eat, and add an extra depth of flavor to food. Edible flowers are classified as herbs. Flowers have enjoyed a prominent place in culinary history and are in fact referred to in the torah. Eating blossoms has also been a part of almost every culture. Mediterranean countries enjoyed eating capers which are the flowering buds of an evergreen shrub. Romans used violets, mallow and roses in many dishes, the Chinese use Lilies and Chrysanthemums in their kitchens and the Victorians used Borage, Violets, Primroses and other blossoms for their salads.
While eating and cooking with flowers is common in many parts of the world, the practice seems to go in and out of fashion in America. Though, recently as the organic food movement has gained momentum and farmers’ markets are common shopping destinations, flowers and flower recipes are popping up on chefs’ menus and in home kitchens as well. Americans have renewed interest in growing and consuming local and homegrown produce instead of nutritionally- empty fast or prepared foods. Flowers are part of that movement and with big flavor and visual interest; I would say flowers are here to stay.
Notes for eating flowers:
- Be sure to use flowers that have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. (I freak out when brides want to decorate their wedding cakes with flowers from the florist. Those blossoms have been heavily sprayed and should not be anywhere near FOOD!)
- Fresh flowers are delicate in texture and flavor, but dried flowers are more assertive and a little can go a long way. You can always add more, but you can’t take out what has already been added. Go easy until you are familiar with the flavors.
- Not all flowers are dibble; in fact some are toxic. Be sure to check with a reliable source before you add blossoms to your recipes.
- Flowers are not just garnishes. They add flavor and texture to dishes. Have fun with them and turn your food into a botanical masterpiece.
- Plant an edible garden with your kids. Even small city apartments can grow a window box. Your kids will benefit from seeing their seeds turn into delicious homegrown food.
- Edible flowers are east to check for bugs and are different from any other herb. Check with your rabbinical authorities for exact procedures.
- Home cooks can have the same quality of amazing edible flowers and micro plants that chefs enjoy. The most amazing selection comes from my friend Farmer Lee Jones. www. farmerjonesfarm. com
Here are some recipes to try with fresh flowers:
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