Capitol Corridor
Capitol Corridor
Capitol Corridor
University of California
Capitol Corridor

Edible Flowers

Lately I have been enjoying learning about edible flowers. It started about six weeks ago when two different customers (I am the seed buyer at “Orchard Nursery and Florist” in Lafayette) asked me about seeds for edible flowers. I knew a few of them such as nasturtiums, pansies and chives, but I needed to know more. Fortunately one of the other nurserymen was scheduled to give a class to our customers on the subject which added more to my list. Then there was a great article in the Contra Costa Times on Saturday March 9th, http://www.mercurynews.com/home-garden/ci_22739632/more-homes-flowers-are-moving-from-table-centerpiece  and then on April 4th an article was published in the weekly Orchard Nursery Newsletter. Suddenly my “plate” was overflowing with edible flowers!

I looked around my garden and found a number of the listed flowers, so I started using them in salads and as decorations to our dinner plates. First I picked some calendulas and added them to salads. They don’t have much of a taste but they add great color. Then I put a pansy on each plate when I was entertaining friends. The little pansy-faces brightened up the rice dish and added to our conversation. The ones I served had a slight sweet taste, but some are very mild and benefit from salad dressing. Next I used nasturtiums that had over-wintered. They were great in the salad and added a different texture and a peppery taste. I realized I have already been using the flowers of rosemary with a pine-like flavor and thyme which has a lemony flavor, as I combine the two herbs for a meat rub, and sometimes the flowers get mixed in with the leaves.

I’ve heard about using zucchini blossoms and I mistakenly thought if I cut off the blossoms I would be sacrificing the number of zucchini. Not so because the plant produces more male flowers than it needs and it is not hard to identify them with their long stalk winding throughout the plant. The female blossoms, on the other hand, usually grow close to the center and have a stubby stalk that, when fertilized, swells into a mini squash. Some recipes call for using the small squash while the flower is still attached.

As I plant my edible garden this year with tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and squash I will be adding some edible flowers not just for the garden but for our dinner plates. Some easy ones are: Chives with an onion flavor, basil with a lemony minty flavor and borage with a sweet cucumber flavor.  I’ll only pick flowers from plants that I know have been grown with no sprays, harmful chemicals, or where dogs or cats run free. Picking flowers for dinner in public areas is not advisable as you have no idea how they were grown and what is on them.

Growing flowers is one thing and knowing how to use them in recipes is another. There are a number of books out, but I find it easier to use the web. A good site with great pictures is http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/edible-flowers-anise-hyssop

Do you have a favorite edible flower and recipe?

 

 

Pansy (photos by Libbey McKendry)
Pansy (photos by Libbey McKendry)

Calendula
Calendula

Posted on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 9:37 AM
Tags: borage (6), chive (1), edible flowers (1), leaves (4), nasturtiums (1), pansy (1), salads (1)

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