NEW! Pharmacopeia of Flowers: Foods, Drinks, Health & Beauty
Welcome to the "Pharmacopeia of Flowers"
These flowers are for my beautiful wife... there are always at least a dozen flowers waiting for her sunshine every morning until she wakes. My wife eats flowers, so I want to help her understand each individual type of flower she picks - to protect her from eating the poisonous flowers like Iris and Buttercups. These pages take many hours to research and produce - so I will try to add a new flower on this page every week... different flowers with no reruns for at least the next two years.
Each flower page will explain what the flower is, what the flower looks like, where the flower grows natively and how to grow the flower organically, any foods or beverages that can be made from the plant, and any medicinal uses for any parts of the plant.
Edible flowers are flowers that can be consumed safely. Edible flowers may be preserved for future use using techniques such as drying, freezing or steeping in oil. They can be used in drinks, jellies, salads, soups, syrups and main dishes. Flower-flavoured oils and vinegars are made by steeping edible flower petals in these liquids. Candied flowers are crystallized using egg white and sugar (as a preservative).
Edible Flowers Guide
It is surprising how many flowers growing in our gardens are edible. Edible flowers have been used for years in cooking or as decorations for various dishes.The Chinese were the first to experiment with flowers as food and their many and varied recipes can be traced back as far back as 3,000 B.C. In Roman times, the edible flowers of pinks, violets and roses were used in dishes and lavender in sauces. Gardeners and cooks over 1,000 years ago were already using pot marigolds and orange blossom in their cooking. Today many fine restaurants around the UK and indeed the world are using more and more edible flowers to enhance salads with their colour, texture and intriguing flavours, as well as for decoration on appetisers, starters, cakes and many other dishes.
It is always best to grow your own edible flowers, and then you can be sure that they are clean, fresh and free from pests and disease. The majority of edible flowers are always best picked fresh from the garden the day you want to use them. Growing your own also allows you to experiment and show off to dinner guests both what you have grown and what you’ve created with a colourful and tasty dish. As with any food and salad preparation always maintain good personal hygiene and practices.
Even if you are not keen on experimenting with salads or sauces, edible flowers make excellent garnishes which, unlike some ‘decorations’ which appear in the guise of nouvelle cuisine, are actually nice to eat! Furthermore, as in Roman times, the flower garden becomes a treasure chest of delicately flavored treats to scatter on your salads or to add a ‘touch of class’ to your culinary endeavours.
WARNING: Poisonous Flowers!
"since the thing perhaps is to eat flowers and not to be afraid"
e.e. cummings (voices to voices, lip to lip)
One very important thing that you need to remember is that not every flower is edible. In fact, sampling some flowers can make you very, very sick. Some flowers are toxic, others may be edible only after appropriate preparations. Toxic flowers may be misidentified as edible when gathered. Allergic reactions are possible, especially from eating pollen. Both gathered flowers and those from a commercial grower may have been sprayed with toxic pesticides. Damaged, dirty or insect-ridden flowers may be unsafe to eat. Some flowers, like Madhuca longifolia, are not safe if eaten often.
- You also should NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat.
- Never harvest flowers growing by the roadside.
- Identify the flower exactly and eat only edible flowers and edible parts of those flowers.
Always remember to use flowers sparingly in your recipes due to the digestive complications that can occur with a large consumption rate. Most herb flowers have a taste that's similar to the leaf, but spicier. The concept of using fresh edible flowers in cooking is not new.
Pick your flowers in the morning when their water content is at its highest.
The hardest part about cooking with violets is often finding the violets themselves. The best violets to use are Viola odorata, a species otherwise known as the sweet violet. They are native to Europe and Asia but may also be found in parts of North America. This variety is also sometimes cultivated and can be found at gourmet and specialty stores.
So, to be safe, make sure you use violets (or any other edible flowers) that have not been treated with any herbicides or pesticides. If you have a garden, violets (perfumed Viola odorata variety included) are easy to grow.
Parts of the Flower To Eat:
Following information from the book: Edible Flowers - From Garden To Palate, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash:
Remove the stamens and styles from the flowers before eating. The pollen can detract from the flavor of the flower. In addition, the pollen may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals. Remove the sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies.
Only the petals of some flowers such as rose, calendula, tulip, chrysanthemum, yucca, and lavender are edible. When using just the petals, separate them from the rest of the flower just prior to use to keep wilting to a minimum. Others, including Johnny-jump-up, violet, runner bean, honeysuckle, and clover can be eaten in their entirety.
Roses, dianthus, English daisies, marigolds and chrysanthemums have a bitter white portion at the base of the petal where it was attached to the flower. Bread or cut off the bitter part off the petal before using.
Cleaning Edible Flowers:
Shake each flower to dislodge insects hidden in the petal folds. After having removed the stamen, wash the flowers under a fine jet of water or in a strainer placed in a large bowl of water. Drain and allow to dry on absorbent paper.
The flowers will retain their odor and color providing they dry quickly and that they are not exposed to direct sunlight.
Preserving Edible Flowers:
To preserve flowers, put them on moist paper and place together in a hermetically-sealed container or in plastic wrapping. This way, certain species can be preserved in the refrigerator for some 10 days. If the flowers are limp, they can be revitalized by floating them on icy water for a few moments; don't leave too long or else they will lose some of their flavor. You can also store the whole flower in a glass of water in the refrigerator overnight.
Crystallized Flowers / Edible Candy Flowers:
Candied flowers and petals can be used in a variety of imaginative ways - to decorate cakes large and small - all kinds of sweet things, such as ice cream, sherbet, crèmes and fruit salads, cocktails.
- 1 egg white or powdered egg whites
- Superfine granulated sugar (either purchased or made in a blender or food processor - just blend regular sugar until extra-fine)
- Thin paintbrush
- Violets, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, rose petals, lilac, borage, pea, pinks, scented geraniums, etc.
- Wire rack covered with wax paper
- Carefully clean and completely dry the flowers or petals.
- Beat the egg white in the small bowl until slightly foamy, if necessary add a few drops of water to make the white easy to spread.
- Paint each flower individually with beaten egg white using the small paintbrush. When thoroughly coated with egg white, sprinkle with superfine sugar.
- Place the coated flowers or petals on wax paper on a wire rack. Let dry at room temperature (this could take 12 to 36 hours). To test for dryness, check the base of the bloom and the heart of the flower to make sure they have no moisture. Flowers are completely dry when stiff and brittle to the touch. NOTE: To hasten drying, you may place the candied flowers in an oven with a pilot light overnight, or in an oven set at 150 degrees to 200 degrees F with the door ajar for a few hours.
- Store the flowers in layers, separated by tissue paper, in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
Garnishing Cheeses with Edible Flowers:
The cheese can be prepared 24 hours in advance of serving. Use flat chunks of cheese, with edible rinds, in a variety of shapes. (Cheddar, Jack, Brie, or Camembert, in round, wedge, or square shapes).
- Edible flowers or herbs
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- Lay the flowers and herbs flat on top of the cheese in the presentation that you want to display.
- Then remove the flowers and herbs, lay them aside in the pattern you want to display them.
- In the medium size saucepan over medium heat, combine the white wine and gelatin. Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and the mixture is clear. Remove from heat and put the saucepan in a larger container filled with ice. Keep stirring as it thickens, NOTE: Stir slowly so you don't create bubbles. (If it gets too thick, you can reheat and repeat.)
- Place the cheese in a dish to catch the drippings from your glaze.
- Spoon the glaze over the cheese and spread evenly. After a few minutes it will become tacky to the touch, then you can "paste" on your flowers in the design pattern you planned.
- Refrigerate about 15 minutes; then remove from refrigerator and spoon more glaze over the flowers.
- NOTE: Make as many layers of glaze as necessary to cover your decorations - can be three layers for a thick design. If the glaze thickens up too much, just reheat and replace in ice.
- Serve with crackers.
Making Flower Petal Tea:
- 2 cups fresh fragrant rose petals (about 15 large roses)*
- 3 cups distilled rosewater
- Honey or granulated sugar to taste
*All roses that you intend to consume must be free of pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops. The tastiest roses are usually the most fragrant.
- Clip and discard bitter white bases from the rose petals; rinse petals thoroughly and Pat dry.
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, place the prepared rose petals.
- Cover with water and bring just to a simmer; let simmer for approximately 5 minutes, or until the petals become discolored (darkened).
- Remove from heat and strain the hot rose petal liquid into teacups.
- Add honey or sugar to taste.
- Makes 4 servings.
Making Blossom Ice Cubes:
- Gently rinse your pesticide-free flower blossoms.
- Boil water for 2 minutes for all the air trapped in the water to escape. Remove from heat and let the water cool until room temperature. NOTE: This will ensure that the ice cubes are crystal clear.
- Place each blossom at the base of each individual compartment within an ice tray. Fill each compartment half full with the cooled boiled water and freeze.
- After the water is frozen solid, fill each ice cube compartment the rest of the way to the top with the remaining boiled water. Freeze until ready to use.
Making Flower-Infused Syrup:
- 1 cup water (or rosewater)
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 to 1 cup edible flower petals (whole or crushed)
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add the water or rosewater, sugar, and edible flower petals; bring to a boil and let boil for approximately 10 minutes or until thickened into syrup. Remove from heat.
- Strain through cheesecloth into a clean glass jar.
- Keeps up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
- Can be added to sparkling water or champagne for a delicious beverage. Or, it may be poured over fruit, pound cake or pancakes.
- Makes about 2 to 3 cups syrup.
- 1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh or dried petals
- 1 pound sweet unsalte butter, room temperature
- Finely chop flower petals and mix into softened butter. Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature overnight to allow the flavors to fuse.
- Chill for a couple of weeks or freeze for several months.
Common Edible Flowers
- Artichoke (flower bud)
- Broccoli (flower buds)
- Cauliflower (flower buds)
- Caper (flower buds)
- Chamomile (for tea)
- Cannabis (flowers or buds)
- Chives (flowers or buds)
- Chrysanthemum (flower)
- Citrus blossoms (lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit)
- Clover (Trifolium)
- Daisies (Bellis perennis quills)
- Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale leaves, roots, flowers, petals, buds)
- Daylilies (Hemerocallis buds, flowers, petals)
- Elderflower (blossoms for drink)
- Jasmine (for tea)
- Lilac (salads)
- Moringa oleifera
- Nasturtium (blossoms and seeds)
- Osmanthus fragrans (flower)
- Pansies (Viola x Wittrockiana flowers, petals)
- Pot Marigolds (Calendula officinalis petals with white heel removed)
- Roses (Rosa petals with white heel removed, rose hips)
- Sesbania grandiflora (flower)
- Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus buds, petals, seeds)
- Violet (leaf and flowers in salads, candied flowers for pastry decoration)
- Zucchini blossoms (blossoms)
Books About Edible Flowers
- A Feast of Flowers. Strowbridge, Cynthia and Francesca Tillona. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1969.
- A Potpourri of Pansies. Mead, Chris and Emelie Tolley. New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 1993.
- Edible Flowers from Garden to Palate. Barash, Cathy Wilkinson. Golden: Fulcrum Publishing, 1993.
- Flowerpower. Brown, Kathy. New York: Anness Publishing Limited, 2000.
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