If you’re a fan of history novels, of period romances and drama tales, such as in the Edwardian, Victorian, and any other “ian” time frames, you’ll be familiar with the partiality these neighborhoods had for flower gardens. Every yard, front and back and side that could hold a garden, did.
The gardens were not just for show or to enliven the household vases. They did not simply decorate the fences and porch columns. Often the flowers of a garden also found their way onto the, probably lace-coiffed, dining table and were served with the meal. People routinely ate flowers, buds, leaves, sometimes fresh and sometimes boiled, poached, baked, or cut up into sauces or garnish. It used to be a thing and a looked-for delicacy at that.
Now it’s a thing that’s coming back, this time into kitchens where Siri or Alexa runs the fridge and the oven. Flowers on a plate are as tasty, amazingly elegant and pretty, and fairly easy to incorporate into a meal as in earlier periods. You don’t have to grow your own or scavenge the yard when the dandelions, violets, roses, lilac, wisteria, et al begin their blooms, either.
While your yard is a likely place to gather wild flowers for eating, it may not be the safest if you are not acquainted with what flowers are OK to eat, and what parts of those flowers should be eaten. Then, too, what if the Johnny Jump-ups have been hit with pesticide from the next door yard? You don’t want to cook with those.
So, while their use in meals is of ancient vintage, it’s wise to recognize that some flowers and leaves are dangerous or have been sprayed with pesticides or grow in toxic conditions. You can, happily enough, order organic, properly harvested and packaged, fragrant and safe to consume flowers.
Ask Siri or Alexa because the internet will cough up plenty of places to order edible flowers if you ask nicely. Amazon, obviously, has them for sale, but so do a number of garden outlets and markets with produce sections.
Additionally, and also for your safety, do be sure to check out this article listed at the end of the paragraph before deciding what flowers, what parts of the flowers, and the taste you are looking for. The well-researched information tells you what to look for, and, importantly, what to avoid, and more. Or, google “safe flowers to eat” or similar phrases.
The recipes below will work with any edible flower and are fun and easy to concoct. Imagine calling a friend or relative to announce, “I’ve got the flowers cooking. Come on over and share some violets for lunch.” You’ll start a trend!
WISTERIA AND DANDELION SPRING SALAD
Pretty and different and sure to impress
A few handfuls of bagged spring mix salad
1 bunch dandelion greens or watercress
a handful fresh wisteria flowers, pulled off their stems
1/2 medium cucumber, chopped
1 sweet orange, peeled and chopped
2 Tbls balsamic vinegar
2 Tbls extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbls maple syrup
1 tsp dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 orange
cracked pepper to taste
For the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, except the oil. Mix well and then add the olive oil. Mix again and let set.
For the salad: Wash flowers and dandelions under a running faucet and shake off excess water. Let sit on a paper towel to drain while putting the salad together.
Use however much you like of each salad ingredient. Mix your greens and place in a serving dish. Add chopped cucumber. Place orange pieces, orange zest and flowers, sprinkled prettily, on top. Drizzle with dressing just before serving. Makes about 2 salads.
FLOWER-GARNISHED ALMOND CHICKEN SANDWICH
Easy open-faced sandwich is made elegant with flowers
12.5 oz can of chicken
1/4 C mayo
2 Tbls sliced almonds
4 croissants sliced in half
Spring mix or other type of lettuce for topping
In a medium bowl, combine chicken, mayo, and almonds. Spread mixture onto each croissant half and top with spring mix and edible flowers. Makes 4 open-faced servings.
Note: The edible flowers are an optional garnish, of course, but they add a pretty charm to the plate. If flowers are not an option, garnish with lemon or orange zest or thin slices of a fresh red or yellow pepper or apple.
HOMEMADE FLOWER SODA
Takes a little time but much healthier than store-bought soda
1 C fresh picked safe-to-eat flowers or use a packaged brand
1 C boiling water
1 C sugar or honey or the sugar substitute of your choice
Club soda or plain seltzer water
Pour boiling water over your flowers in a bowl and let sit, covered in plastic wrap, overnight on the counter. The next morning, strain the liquid into a small saucepan, pressing down with a rubber spatula to release all the liquid, and discard the flowers. Add the sugar and bring to a boil, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool, then pour into a clean jar or container and refrigerate until chilled, at least an hour or two. The syrup may gel a bit.
When syrup is chilled, spoon 1-2 tablespoons into a glass and fill with club soda. Add more syrup to taste if necessary. Makes enough for about 8 glasses.
Tip: To spark your soda drink for parties, make ice cubes from small edible flowers. Just add a bloom to the water in each cube section and freeze as usual. The flower cubes can also add interest to champagne or any bubbly in a glass. Get even fancier by moistening the glass rim and dusting with sugar, like the salt on a margherita rim.
By Jean Redstone