Incredible Edibles

Kerry Dunnington

Trendy restaurant chefs and home cooks are using edible flower blossoms for their strikingly beautiful appearance, fragrance and flavor. Pumpkin and squash blossoms can be made into delicious tasting soups, or stuffed and dipped in a light batter and fried. Edible flowers can be candied, or made into jellies and jams, used to infuse vinegars, or to make teas and wines. They can be blended into butter or used in salad dressings, sauces and marinades—or simply tossed lavishly as a gorgeous edible garnish.  One of my favorite touches is to place miniature pansies, violets and rose pedals in the cube part of ice trays. Use these eye-catching ice cubes when serving water or iced tea.


There are a few safety measures you should become familiar with though—play it safe:

  • Eat flowers only when you are positive they are edible.
  • Know where edible flowers come from—Your garden or a friend’s garden is best.
  • Edible flowers from garden centers, florists and nurseries are not labeled as food crops. They may have been treated with pesticides and should never be consumed. Flowers found growing on the side of the road should not be eaten either.
  • Overeating some edible flowers can cause complications with your digestive system, when initially incorporating them into your diet, use sparingly or as a garnish.
  • If you are allergy-prone, it is probably best to forego the consumption of flowers entirely.


Those caveats aside, there are dozens and dozens of edible flowers.  To list just a few commonly used: Chive and Garlic Blossoms, Calendula, Carnations (surprisingly sweet petals), Chrysanthemums, Clover, Lavender, Nasturtiums (a peppery flavor similar to watercress), Pansy, Scarlet Runner Bean blossoms, and Violets. To learn more about these and other varieties, google “edible flowers,” and use the internet as a resource for more information.

 

PICKING, PREPARING AND PRESERVING

 

Pick flowers in the early morning hours or the coolest time of day. For optimum flavor, pick flowers at their peak, avoiding flowers that are not fully open or are past their prime. Shake flowers to dislodge any insects that may be hidden in the petal folds. Remove pistil and stamen before washing. As a general rule the only part of the flower that is edible is the petals, remove the white base of the flowers’ petals; they typically have a bitter taste. Allow flowers to air dry on an absorbent kitchen towel. Gently cover with a moist towel and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

The stunning Hibiscus flower makes an especially lovely tea. Nile Valley Herbs, an African importer who donates a portion of each sale to local village improvement efforts in the Nile Valley, has turned these brilliant, fiery-colored gems into the most extraordinary tea I’ve tasted.

 

To learn more about Nile Valley’s mission and their pure Hibiscus tea, visit, WWW.NILEVALLEYHERBS.COM.

 

Refreshing and zesty, this tea has powerful health benefits having been officially proven in clinical research to lower blood pressure levels! In my taste-testing tea career, this is the most “feel-great” tea I’ve sampled. I further enhanced this mild, citrus-flavored tea by pouring over ginger infused ice cubes.  Perfect for summer sipping…

Click Here for a Hibiscus Tea Recipe!


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