Use flowers in recipes for an artistic flourish
Kathi Keville, director of the American Herb Association, says, “Everyone appreciates the beauty of a flowering garden throughout the spring and summer, but there are more ways to enjoy flowers from your garden.”
“There are an abundance of edible flowers that make culinary dishes tasty and add visual delight to any meal.”
Use a reputable guide to be absolutely sure the flowers you choose are edible. When gathering flowers, avoid using those exposed to heavy exhaust fumes from cars or that have been sprayed with pesticides. “Otherwise, enjoy artistic freedom sprinkling salads with petals, floating flowers on punch bowls for a party, and even decorating soups with flowers,” said Keville of Chicago Park.
Edible flowers you may have in your garden include apple blossoms, borage, calendula, chamomile, chicory, chive, dandelion, clove pink, elderberry, English daisy, fennel, hibiscus, honeysuckle, jasmine, lilac, linden, mint, rose, sunflower and violet.
Besides adding eye appeal, many flowers add flavor highlights. Nasturtiums have a peppery taste. They can be fashioned into appetizers by stuffing each blossom with a dab of guacamole or other mixture. They also add interest to tossed salads, along with dill blossoms and bachelor buttons. Use a light vinaigrette for the dressing. Marigold petals can add interest to muffins, cakes or other baked goods and add zest to pasta dishes. When snipping herbs from your garden, be sure to include blossoms to use in the dish you are making. For flowers that are slightly bitter, such as calendula, break apart and use the individual petals.
Edible flowers are a natural garnish for any summer dish and be a visual clue to secret flavors. Keville’s suggestions for using edible flowers produce quick, impressive results.
Floral Snack Plate
“One of the quickest ways to produce a floral snack is with crackers.”
Cream cheese (“I use the lower-fat kefir cheese available in the natural food store.”)
Assorted fresh edible flowers such as pansies
Spread crackers thinly with cream cheese. Press a flower into cheese.
It’s ready to serve.
Lots of different flowers are appropriate, but Keville loves the way a pansy flower spreads out to cover the face of a round cracker. Most people are surprised to find that pansies are not only edible, but very tasty, too.
For a sweetened variation, blend 1/4 cup of cream cheese with 2 tablespoons of jam, any flavor. Keville uses a light-colored jam such as apricot to accent dark flowers and black- or blueberry jam for pale flowers.
1/8 teaspoon finely chopped mint flowers (or other flowers)
1/2 cup cream cheese
Mix the cheese and herb together with a fork. Roll into small balls and fit them into nasturtium flowers. Keep stuffed flowers in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Floral Ice Cubes
“Here’s an easy idea that will have your summertime guests in awe. They’ll be amazed at the colorful ice cubes you produce.”
Place a flower in each compartment of an ice tray. Fill the tray with water, then return to the freezer. To make enough for a party, empty the ice tray by putting already-frozen cubes in a strong plastic bag. Keep in the freezer until ready to use. These cubes will last for months in the freezer. Choose flowers that are small, colorful and have no blemishes. One of Keville’s favorites is the bright blue, star-shaped flower of the herb borage. If you have it in your garden, it’s flowering right now. Earlier in the year, she uses violets, but almost any edible flower will work.
1/4 cup edible flower petals, fresh or dried
1/2 pound honey
Gently heat the honey until very liquid. Stir in petals and pour into a jar. The result is very pretty, so Keville suggests you use a narrow, clear glass. Use this honey on toast, to sweeten tea or anytime you’d use plain honey. This same technique can be used with sugar to make flower sugar. Rose petals are particularly nice for either version.
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup fresh flowers
1/4 teaspoon water, cold
Superfine granulated sugar
Cut flowers leaving a tiny bit of stem to hold on to. Remove any excess moisture on flowers by placing them on paper towels. Beat egg white well and add water. Dip the flowers in the mixture, then into the sugar, or paint the mixture on the flower with a small artist’s brush.
Place coated flowers on waxed paper to dry. Store in a tightly covered jar. Use them to decorate anything, but especially cakes and other sweets.
Favorite flowers to use are rose petals and violets, but any small, thin, edible flower or petal will do.
Pasta with Daylily Buds
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1 cup daylily buds
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1/2 teaspoon Italian herbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Linguine or penne pasta
Parmesan or feta cheese
Bring water to boil for pasta. Tear mushrooms into bite-size pieces. In large skillet, saute shallots in oil. Add mushrooms, then daylilies, sauteeing 3 minutes. Add seasonings. Cover and let stand over low heat while pasta cooks.
Drain pasta and toss with vegetables. Garnish with choice of cheese.
1 pound ricotta cheese
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup pine nuts, ground
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Handful fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 to 30 squash or nasturtium blossoms
Combine all ingredients, except blossoms, in blender or food processor. Carefully stuff each blossom with cheese mixture.
Variation: Squash blossom can be dipped in batter of 1 cup flour, 1 egg, and 2 tablespoons water then deep fried.
Calendula Corn Muffins
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup calendula or marigold petals
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir all ingredients with a fork. Pour into prepared muffin tin. Bake 20-25 minutes.
Mixed Berries and Lavender Cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
5-6 lavender spikes
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks
Quart fresh berries
In a double boiler, combine first six ingredients. Cook over simmering water 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks. Add about1/2 cup of lavender cream mixture. Whisk to mix well. Return this to cream mixture in double boiler. Cook over simmering water 10 minutes, stirring until mixture thickens. Remove lavender spikes with a spoon; chill. Just before serving, fold in whipped cream. Spoon onto dessert plate and arrange berries on top. Garnish with lavender sprigs.
Edible Flower Lore
For more ideas on using flowers and herbs in cooking and gardening, see Kathi Keville1s 3Herbs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia² (Barnes and Noble). It is one of 11 books she1s written on herbs and aromatherapy that are available at local bookstores.
You can tour her Grass Valley herb gardens and learn garden design techniques during classes June 22 and July 28. Call Keville at 274-3140 for more information.
Bette Worth writes a column on Wednesdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or she can be reached at
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