Wednesday, May 24, 2017

8 Edible Flowers And How To Use Them

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If you've come to this blog post hoping to learn how to use edible flowers to make your food prettier (or to keep yourself alive My Side of The Mountain style) you've come to a good place! I'm no expert but I'm confident I'll be able to point you in a positive, safe direction for eating some pretty gorgeous flowers. Ever since I was a kid and would read all of Jean Craighead George's books about kids going off-grid and surviving by becoming hunters and foragers, I've been fascinated with the things you can eat that grow right in your own yard. I think it's comical how strongly people react to the idea of eating flowers or other wild plants as if it's a new idea:
You're putting redbud blossoms into your mango soft-serve?
Well, yes. Herbs are just domesticated versions of wild plants and so are vegetables and fruits. The idea of being able to eat certain blossoms of certain plants shouldn't be all that surprising. I'm here to bust some myths, highlight a couple favorites, and hopefully inspire you to start tossing (correctly identified) blossoms into your meals! Some of these are wildflowers, some of them are "domesticated," and absolutely all of the flowers mentioned here are safe to eat.

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 Now let's get cracking: first off, Legitimate Reasons To Eat Flowers:
  • they are free
  • they are beautiful
  • they are free and beautiful
  • some of them taste good
  • none of them taste bad
  • your food pictures look cooler
  • your friends will think you're smart
  • your friends will think you're basically Bear Grylls. 
As always, the flowers you "forage" should be safely grown. By that I mean not sprayed with pesticides, growing near a roadside where there's a lot of pollution, or otherwise compromised in provenance. Also, if you aren't familiar with what each of these flowers look like, educate yourself on them before running around eating them. Some flowers are harder to identify correctly than others. That's why I'm scared to eat Queen Anne's Lace (which is edible): its doppelganger (poison hemlock) is deadly. Do your research, make sure what you have is actually edible and has no easily-confused lookalike, then enjoy. Ready? Set? Go!

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rose -  the one flower that every single person on planet earth is familiar with. Whether we're discussing wild roses, domestic roses, or roses that have simply gone abroad for a while and come back slightly unkempt, you can eat any of them! For large varieties, try candying the petals or shredding them to sprinkle on yogurt. Alternately, dry the petals and use as a beautiful wintry decoration for baked goods.

marigold - most of us are familiar with this pungent, classic vegetable garden flower. Usually planted near less hearty plants to keep bugs away, marigolds are an ideal addition to salads or sprinkled on top of curry. Though the smell of marigolds might turn some people away (I like it - it smells like coffee, after a fashion), the flavor of the actual petals is much milder and adds just the vaguest savory flavor to your dish.

honeysuckle - it's a long-time dream of mine to sit down one day and "milk" enough honeysuckle blossoms to make a bottle of honeysuckle nectar. Okay, or at least to get a teaspoon of nectar and drink it. Like, legitimately, it's my dream. The beautiful scent and flavor of honeysuckle makes it the perfect decoration for a cake, an addition to lemonade, or sprinkled over a light, composed salad.

pansy + viola - these flowers are sisters of violets which are also completely edible. I love how bright pansies and violas are and what a punch of color they add when topping a salad, rice bowl, or quiche. The blossoms have very little (if any) scent or flavor so violas are probably the ideal "beginner's" flower for those just starting to adventure.

clover - everybody knows clover! Clover's like the strong steady hand that you never appreciate till it's gone. While a well-known star in honey (clover honey, anyone?) and the foundation of all successful childhood flower-chains, clover is also a great addition to spring-time salads or marshalled into oatmeal-topping duty. 

dianthus - besides being known as "pinks" and "sweet william" and thus winning every charm contest ever, dianthus has the most exquisite flavor of cloves that you'd ever hoped to meet with in all your flower-chomping dreams. I am enamored. In salads, in drinks, on top of creme brulee...agh. Pure perfection. Get some dianthus. Be in love.

hop clover - okay, I admit that I only added this one to the list because I needed one more flower to round out my list and everything else has either already bloomed or is not yet blooming. However, hop clover is apparently popular and edible, thrown in tea or salads or whatever you feel like throwing it into. I've always thought that the bright, round yellow blooms look like adorable little Dr. Seuss plants. Something a weary Sneech might sit on if he had a moment. You know, as you do. Also, totally throw the blossoms into an ice cube tray and make ice cubes out of those babies because listen. Hops = alcohol and some alcohol needs to be iced. And if you pop into a dinner party toting hop-clover ice cubes, you've become the pun-master, no argument allowed.

dandelions - of all the flowers on this list (besides roses and violas, perhaps), dandelions must be the next most popular. While the leaves on this power-packed plant are better known than the blossoms as far as eating goes, I like tossing dandelions into a drab dish as a peppery garnish sure to bring on a smile. 


There are far more edible flowers than those I've listed above. These were just the ones I had on hand today - if you live in Southern Virginia in May, these will be at hand. Earlier in the spring there were sweet peas, beach peas, redbud, violets, bluets, and chickweed. Later there will be wood-sorrel, day-lilies, and more wild roses. The more I study edible wild-flowers, the more excited I am to find that there are far more edible flowers, seemingly, than there are inedible ones! I hope you'll get outside this weekend, pick a few flowers, and enjoy a beautiful twist to a commonplace dinner preparation.

1 comment:

  1. I love everything about this! I remember when my Dad told me about ice cream made with roses, I was so excited.

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