Good cooks know that how the food looks influences how it tastes. A hamburger resting on a naked plate looks forlorn. Add a slice of bright red tomato, crisp white onion and bright green lettuce, and somehow that burger tastes better. Garnishes go beyond the sprig of parsley, bed of lettuce or slice of orange. Creative chefs use a variety of methods to enhance their dishes. Carved fruits and vegetables, many of them shaped like flowers, are used in oriental cooking. Complement your food creations with fresh flowers.
Obtain flowers that have been organically grown and that are sold as food quality. If you grow your own flowers, don't use pesticides, fungicides or spray-on fertilizers on the flowers you'll be using to decorate the food.
Choose edible flowers for decoration so there won't be any problems if somebody eats one along with the food. Edible flowers include geraniums, roses, pansies, nasturtiums, carnations, chrysanthemums, bachelor buttons and day lilies. Don't assume that a flower is edible if it's on a vegetable. All parts of the tomato and potato plants are toxic--only the ripe fruit of the tomato and the tuber of the potato are edible.
Wash the flowers. Fill the sink with cold water, dunk the flowers and swish them around. Lift them up out of the sink and put in a colander. Do this two or three times until you're sure all dirt, dust and bugs have been washed away. Lifting the flowers up leaves the dirt behind in the water.
Shake the flowers in the colander to remove excess water. Put them on a towel and gently pat dry. Store in a zip-lock bag in the crisper section of the fridge until you're ready to use them.
Complement the food with the flowers either by shape, flavor or color. Decorate a dish of grilled summer squash with a squash blossom or day lily. Add nasturtiums to salads--they have a peppery flavor, and their bright colors stand out against the green lettuce. Pansies and roses work well with desserts because they're slightly sweet. Carnations and chrysanthemums are bold enough to garnish meat, chicken and fish dishes.
Decorate carved vegetable and fruit flowers with real flowers. Place a carnation inside a cucumber flower, a mum inside an onion mum and a real rose inside a tomato rose.