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July 4, 2017 > Edible flowers add beauty to your plate

Edible flowers add beauty to your plate

Submitted By Lalitha Visveswaran

Eat your flowers! is something your mother never said, even though so many flowers are deliciously edible. They may not be big on flavor or texture like vegetables or fruits, but they add so much beauty to our food and make us pause to admire what nature has gifted us.

Chive
The tender green stalks of the chive herb are a welcome addition to omelets and broths with gentle onion-like flavor as befits its allium reputation. Pink chive blossoms will appear in spring after the chive plant turns a year old. They look gorgeous as a garnish and pack a surprisingly sharp sweet onion flavor. It comes from the still green seed that it holds within its petals. One chive blossom may contain up to 20 Ð 30 tiny hard black seeds, but before they dry out to that state, they make very tasty edible flowers. They can also be steeped in white wine vinegar for its distinctive flavor as well as a gorgeous pink color. Just fill a mason jar half full with fresh pink chive blossoms and top with vinegar. Close with a plastic cap only. Shake every day until the vinegar takes on the pink color. Strain. Use to make salad dressing and in cooking.

Violas
These tiny edible flowers look like little smiling faces. They are delicate and can be mildly perfumed, although not all of them carry the vanilla-like fragrance. The family of violas include johnny jump ups, pansies, and even the wild violets, which are the most fragrant of them all. Pick flowers when they have just opened and leave them in cold water to swell them up slightly. To crystallize violas, beat an egg white and use a fine brush to paint the petals. Sprinkle caster sugar over it and leave to dry for at least two hours. They are beautiful as garnish over cakes, puddings, and drinks.

Chamomile
This is a very well known medicinal herb known for its sleep-inducing qualities. They look like cute little yellow buttons surrounded by white petals. They actually belong to the ragweed family, and if one is allergic to ragweed they would probably be allergic to chamomile too. They have a delicate smell that is much like apple blossoms. There are two main cultivars, German and Roman chamomile. German is more popular and it grows as a tall three- to four-foot plant, while Roman chamomile is often grown as a ground cover.

Lavender
This is an absolute favorite, even though many associate lavender with toiletries because of its pleasant fragrance. Lavender was originally used for its medicinal properties to heal burns, and then also in the kitchen. A handful of lavender buds steeped in hot water will make a light purple-tinged tea that can be sweetened with sugar or honey. It is often used to make lavender syrup. In France, a distinctive spice mix called Herbes de Provence lists lavender as a key ingredient along with marjoram, thyme, rosemary and other savory herbs.

Calendula
Also known as pot marigold, calendula has nothing to do with the other flower known as marigold. Calendula is a great herbal medicine used for all sorts of skin ailments. It is also edible. It appears in many colors like yellow, orange, and even mixed shades, but it's mostly recognized as a bright orange flower. It has a sharp spicy flavor and adds an interesting dimension when strewn over salads in terms of color and taste.

Fennel
The umbels of the flowering fennel plant mature into fennel seeds that is a very popular spice used in many different cuisines. But the flowers are edible too. Each fennel flower, known as an umbel, contains many little pollen-laden flowers. They have a mild anise flavor. The pollen is highly sought after and very expensive. However, care must be taken to properly identify fennel flowers as they belong to the same family as poisonous plants such as poison hemlock. The plant reseeds profusely and because of this, they are often found by the roadsides and freeway edges in the Bay Area. However, one must exercise caution as they also tend to absorb auto fumes that are possibly toxic when ingested.

Roses
Queen of Flowers with its multi-colored splendor, velvety texture of petals, and very sweet fragrance, roses have been used in food for centuries. Distilled rose water is a popular ingredient in ancient cultures and especially around the Middle East, India, and Persia. They are great in pastries, cakes, and drinks. Always take care to use only unsprayed organic roses. This is a caution that is best followed with all edible flowers.

A more extensive Ð but still partial Ð list of edible flowers includes nasturtiums, squash blossoms, borage, lilacs, honeysuckle, clovers, basil flowers, sage blossoms, dianthus, chrysanthemums, and jasmine.

Flowers makes us smile. They draw pollinators like bees, butterflies, and humming birds. They bring a little bit of delicate whimsy and color to our food. Birds and pollinators rely on nectar, and flowers themselves have a future as fruits and seeds. Leave most of them for the plantÕs destiny but let's eat some flowers too!


Lalitha Visveswaran is a full-time farmer at Jellicles Farm in the Sunol AgPark where she grows vegetables, herbs, flowers, and lavender. www.jelliclesfarm.com, www.facebook.com/jelliclesfarm, www.instagram.com/jelliclesfarm




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