A cake decorated with sugar-crystallized flowers
image by Kimberly Vardeman\commons.wikipedia.org
Edible flowers bring beauty and a variety of flavors to your table. People have been including flowers in recipes for hundreds of years, both for their reputed health benefits and their flavors. Fresh flowers like nasturtiums and violets make an interesting garnish on salads or a delicate decoration for desserts. The blossoms from any type of squash plant are quite versatile and can be fried, boiled, or stuffed. Even dandelions can be sautéed, pickled, or made into wine. Try these suggestions for bringing flowers from the vase to the plate.
Flowers to Eat Raw
Garnish your plates and salads with nasturtiums. Nasturtiums are red, yellow, or orange. They have a sweet peppery taste earlier in the season, and they become spicy and pungent as the plant's blooming period starts to finish.
Freeze violets and borage flowers into ice cubes for summer drinks. Violets and borage have a honey-like nectar flavor, and their light purple petals make a pretty accent to a glass of lemonade. Put one or two blossoms into each square of an ice tray full of water and freeze them into the cubes.
Sprinkle carnation petals over a cake for an edible decoration. Carnations come in a variety of colors, or you can dye cut carnations by placing them in a glass of water with a few drops of food coloring. The petals have a slightly sweet, spicy flavor that is similar to their scent.
Flowers to Cook
Try dandelions cooked with sausage and potatoes. Use flowers that have not yet opened, as they become more bitter when they bloom. Put a layer of dandelion greens and flowers in the bottom of a medium cooking pot. Add a layer of sliced Italian sausage, another layer of flowers, and a layer of sliced potatoes. Sprinkle the rice over the potatoes, cover with water, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Simmer for 40 minutes.
Steam sunflowers for an inexpensive alternative to artichokes. Use the flowers when they're still tightly closed, and steam them for 10 to 15 minutes until they're tender.
Use squash blossoms to make a refreshing soup for a starter course. Sauté garlic and onions in butter for 5 minutes then simmer in chicken broth for 10 to 12 minutes. Add male squash blossoms with the stamens snipped out and simmer 5 minutes more. Puree the soup in a blender until it's smooth, strain it back into the pan, add milk, and heat it. Top it with cheese and serve it hot.