I recently dined at a restaurant and was served soup with edible flowers floating on it. Edible flowers are again in vogue. This trend is not new. Using flowers for food and garnish maybe new to some but the practice of using flower for food dates back to the Roman times, European, notably the English people, the Middle Eastern, chinese and Indian cultures.
During the Victorian era , the use of edible flowers for food was popular. Tea time is accompanied by crystalized flowers (sugared), usually violets, and scones are served with apple blossom, rose petal jam or jellies or other flowered jelly.
A delicate tea of Chinese origin is jasmin tea,made from the flowers of a jasmin shrub.. In Mexico , a delicious tea is made from the flowers of the hibiscus which they call” Te de Jamaica”. If you have seen the movie, “The Last Emperor”, there is a scene where the Emperor and the Empress are dining. During the conversation, the Empress got upset and lost her royal finished, she took the cattleya orchid from her plate , bite it, and then started to chew the orchid with an angry expression in her face. The flower was cattleya skinneri, an orchid specie ,said to be edible.
I particularly love nustursuim flowers. The young leaves and flowers are a great addition to salads. The flowers perk up the greens in salads with there hue of bright colors and add verve to the salad. The flower buds can be picked before they open and preserved in brine, like capers. Roses,pansies,marigold,crocus (crocus sativa) violets,orange blossom, banana blossom,sassafras, squash flowers etc are example of edible flowers. Number one rule in growing edible flowers is not to spray the plant with pesticide. Pick only fully open flowers and in the cool of the day, after the dew evaporates. Sample the flower before harvesting,the taste can vary according to soil condition, fertilization and environmental condition.One last thing, do not pick flowers from the roadside,even if you think it is edible because it can be contaminated with pollutant which can make you sick. If you are not sure that a flower is edible,do not eat it. Do not eat flowers from the florist, and farmers market unless they are labeled as edible flowers.
Edible flowers can be successfully grown in any garden as long as they are not sprayed with pesticide. Start with good soil and the location should provide at least 4-6 hours of sun. I usually amend my soil with compost and do not use chemical fertilizer , but you can. Follow the seed direction on how to grow the plant. I do not spend the extra buck to buy organic seed. I buy regular flower seed, soak it overnight in water, and broadcast the seed where I want it to grow, when the plants are 2″ tall, I thin it. Nursery plants had been sprayed with pesticide and fertilized with chemical fertilizer to be ready for the market. Customers will not purchase a flowering plant with no flowers. Since pesticides are systemic,the plant already has the pesticide in its system to give it vigor.
Before you add the edible flowers to your food, please wash it well. I spread the washed flowers in paper towels until the water dries out. If you have not tried eating edible flowers, you can be missing out. Some nutrients present in the flowers are vitamin C, A, potassium,iron,phosphorus etc. Since the use of edible flowers is minimal, such as use as garnish or flavoring, nutrition is not the dominant issue, but artisty and beauty of food presentation. If you have eaten paella, you already ate edible flowers because saffron comes from the stamen of the flower crocus sativa. Chicken feed manufacturers add marigold flowers to the chicken feed so the chicken can produce eggs that have bright yellow yolks. Do not forget the farmers market, they usually sell flower jams and jelly and maybe edible flowers.