It is becoming more common to find flowers in food. Cooks of all experience levels are looking for ways to include the beauty and unique flavors of flowers to a variety of dishes. Here are some simple ways to start experimenting with this colorful and flavorful ingredient.
Make sure the flowers are both edible and grown without the use of pesticides. Not all flowers can be eaten, some may taste bad but others are potentially poisonous. If unsure about a flower consult an informational book or a person who knows about herbs and flowers. Always wash the flowers gently in cool water before use.
A common way to introduce the use of edible flowers is through garnishes and salads. Be careful, not all flowers used as garnishes at restaurants can be eaten. Violets and pansies are good for both and the entire flower can be eaten. They add both color and a light, slightly sweet flavor. Hibiscus and hollyhock make delightful garnish for dishes and have a light flavor as well.
Add a flower as garnish to drinks in a similar manner to adding mint sprigs. Remember to use the petals or flower only since the stem may be bitter. Freeze small petals in ice for interesting ice cubes.
Fried or Stuffed
The flowers of vegetable plants are not commonly considered when thinking about edible flowers. Squash flowers are particularly good when given a light cornmeal batter and fried. Use the same techniques as frying okra or fish. Other vegetable flowers, such as produced by okra and broccoli, add unique flavors to stir-fried vegetables and meats.
Tulips hold their shape well and are ideal for stuffing. Use a traditional bread stuffing or a flavorful stuffing designed for squash or peppers. The head of the flower holds its shape well both during the stuffing and baking process. Their light almost pea like flavor adds a nice touch to the flavors in the stuffing.
Edible flowers are ideal for jams or jellies and candies. Sweet flowers, such as elderberry and violet, can be made into preserves that are both flavorful and colorful. Both are also easy to turn into candies; lightly coat the petals with egg whites, dip them in sugar and then allow them to dry.
Teas and wines are another historic use. Chamomile and jasmine teas are made from the flowers of their respective herbs. Dandelion wine is easy to make and a good way to make use of the prolific flowers.