Grow Some Edible Flowers

Violets - Candied violets are wonderful for decorating desserts.

Violets - Candied violets are wonderful for decorating desserts.

Grow some edible flowers when you consider what to plant in your garden. Why not grow them in containers close to your kitchen door? With their bright colors and flavors ranging from sweet to spicy, they can make your meals fun. It’s possible to use them in all kinds of dishes, from appetizers to desserts. Innovative cooks and restaurant chefs often use them to garnish entrees for a touch of class.

Chive Blossoms

Chive Blossoms

Although they are best used fresh, edible flowers can be preserved for future use with techniques such as drying, freezing or steeping in oil. They can be used in drinks, jellies, salads, soups, teas, butters, syrups and many main dishes. Flower-flavoured oils and vinegars are made by steeping edible flower petals in these liquids.

Candied flowers for garnishing desserts are crystallized using egg white and sugar (as a perservative).  Many flowers can be used to make vinegars for cooking, marinades, or dressings for salad. Herbal flowers normally have the same flavor as their leaves, with the exceptions of chamomile and lavender blossoms, where the flavor is usually more subtle.

Some of our common ‘vegetables’ are really edible flowers. Broccoli and broccolini are actually flower buds. Their florets, when allowed to form into the small yellow flowers are mildly spicy, and delicious in a stir-fry or just steamed. The close relative, cauliflower, is also a flower head.

Pick your edible flowers in the cool of the day, after the dew has disappeared. Choose flowers that are at their peak for maximum freshness. Keep the flowers cool, and in water until you are ready to use them. If they have short stems, put them into a plastic bag along with a damp paper towel.  Edible flowers are extremely fragile and cannot be stored in the refrigerator, so must be used as quickly as possible.

When you are ready to prepare them, carefully rinse each flower in cold water, and then dry it carefully with a paper towel. Remove the stems, using a knife if necessary, and then, using tweezers, gently take off the pistil, petals and sepals. This last step will lessen any possible allergens that might be present in pollen.

Borage blossoms

Borage blossoms

Growing edible flowers is similar to growing ornamental flowers in many ways.  Chemicals and pesticides should be avoided, and beneficial insects such as ladybugs or praying mantis can help decrease detrimental insect populations.

By using good growing practices such as weeding, mulching, using natural soil amenders such as compost or well-rotted manure, and irrigating there should be no need for chemicals of any sort.

If you’d like more information about Edible Flowers and their uses, click on the link.

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