Healthy Cooking Thursday: Edible Flowers

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Our friend over at InCYST (a blog about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), Monika Woolsey, posted a link on her Facebook page last weekend to an article about edible flowers.  (Incidentally, Monika will be returning to Green Mountain at Fox Run in the fall for another great workshop on living with PCOS.)  While not a neccessity for life, I consider flowers to be an important addition to any vegetable garden.  In fact, I only plant flowers in my yard if I know I can eat them.  You see, you eat with your eyes first. If the plate is prettier, psychologically you will be more satisfied with your meal.

But how to use flowers in your food?  The most obvious and easiest thing to do is put petals or entire small blossoms in a salad.  They are also great garnishes in a cold soup for a little bit of drama and crunch.  Our breakfast chef Theresa loves to make a cold wild rice pilaf salad with Johnny-Jump-Ups, and is also a fan of throwing flowers in potato or pasta salads for an extra Wow factor.  What a cool way to perk up a traditional pot-luck dish!  Beware, though, because some flowers are far from edible – be sure to check in with a good resource before putting something pretty (and potentially dangerous) in your food.  Pesticides are another issue, just as with any other produce, so be aware of your source and wash flowers gently (but well) before consumption.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Borage – these pretty blue star shaped flowers contrast with the colors of most dishes, since blue is a color which does not often exist naturally in the culinary world.  They have a crisp, refreshing flavor and are gorgeous floating in a pool of watermelon gazpacho.  Did I mention they're little stars??  Adorable!
  • Daylillies – A Vermont perennial favorite, daylillies are a wonderful addition to salads, since they taste like a sweeter iceburg lettuce, with a delicate crunch.  I enjoy stuffing them with goat cheese and tapenade for an extra special appetizer.
  • Red Clover – The Vermont state flower is a sweet treat, which is why the cattle dotting our landscape enjoy chowing on it so much.
  • Chive Flowers – Pull this purple beauties apart and sprinkle over anything for a little extra gentle onion flavor.
  • Nasturtium – A peppery addition that is welcome in my spinach salad anytime.
  • Basil Flowers – So pretty I wear one on my arm all the time (in tattoo form), these provide a lovely peppery-sweet zing to a salad.
  • Bee Balm – An awesome perennial that I'm allowing to completely take over one of my flowerbeds, these beautiful and funky red flowers look like they're from Mars but taste like minty heaven.
  • Violets, Pansies, and Johnny-Jump Ups – All of these are wonderful intact, but I really like to gently remove their petals and sprinkle over a dish for that extra special garnishing touch.

They may not be an every day indulgence, but flowers certainly can jazz up a plate.  Besides, it's nice to have another reason to run outside on a beautiful day.  What do you like to eat with your flowers?

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