Food blooms with healthy touches of flowers - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Food blooms with healthy touches of flowers

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Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 9:55 am | Updated: 2:14 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

A book published in the 1950s (and later turned into a movie and TV show) advised "Please Don’t Eat the Daisies."

How very narrow-minded. After all, edible flowers have been used in world cuisines for centuries, and they can enliven any menu item.

They can be shredded and used in cold salads, beverages, salad dressings and soups. They can be used whole, filled with savory stuffings and poached, steamed or fried. Small flowers, buds and flower petals can be candied or crystallized, used to create confections or to decorate baked goods.

To get started with flower cookery, find a reliable supplier of edible flowers. Many flower varieties are edible, but just as many are not. Flowers from gardens that have been heavily sprayed or treated with chemicals are, obviously, not good choices.

Generally, unless you have carefully nurtured edible flowers yourself, you will want to purchase them from a produce market or a farmers market (be sure to ask if the flowers are meant for eating!).

Select flowers that appear to have opened very recently. Except fordaylilies, you won’t want to use unopened flowers or buds. Wilted or faded flowers will probably have bitter or weak flavors.

As soon as you can, gently rinse edible flowers under cool water. If you like, you can refresh them in ice water for about one minute, then drain them on paper towels. While you are rinsing your edible flower purchases, take a taste of several petals. This will get you thinking about the best dishes to in which to use various flowers.

If you’re not going to use the flowers right away, store them in the refrigerator, placed between damp, cool towels. Most edible flowers, picked at their peak and stored properly in a cool place, should last three to five days.

Agreat waytoget acquainted with the flavor, texture and "workability" of edible flowers is to use them in a cold salad. Shred, chop or tear whole flowers or petals into small pieces and toss with cold greens, pasta or rice and shredded vegetables. Go a little further and toss some flower petals into salad dressings, allowing the flavor to infuse before serving.

In addition to being pretty, edible flowers add fiber and small amounts of vitamins and minerals to your meals. And they’re all low in fat and sodium.

Deep orange and red petals may contain small amounts of beta carotene and potassium. Rose petals and hips and hibiscus may have some vitamin C. Chrysanthemums contain natural chemicals thought to soothe sore throats, and purple cone daisies (also called echinacea) are thought to help bolster the immune system.

It bears repeating that some flowers are not edible. Not only are they not edible, they can be poisonous. Be certain you have identified flowers before you start nibbling.

But you’ll probably be safe eating the flowers from culinary herbs. The rule of thumb is, if the leaf is edible as an herb, the flower is also edible.

Herb flowers usually have the same flavor as the herb, just a little more subtle. Lavender and chamomile are the exceptions to the subtlety rule. These two flowers have a stronger flavor than their leaves.

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