FLOWERS IN FOOD: COOKING WITH EDIBLE FLOWERS

Flower Jelly, Edible and Poisonous Flowers and Ideas for Using Flowers in the Kitchen
Below are listed some popular edible flowers as well as some poisonous ones. There’s also a recipe for flower jelly, and a few other suggested get-acquainted uses - but before we begin, here are some basic pointers:

Know where the flowers have come from - be sure they have not been sprayed, and that they were grown naturally, without pesticides. Be sure the selected variety of flower is safe to eat.

Proceed with caution: taste and smell the flowers first - to see if you like them. However pretty they may be, there’s no point in using bitter-tasting or harsh- or metallic-tasting flowers.

Be aware that people may have allergic reactions to flowers, just as they might to any food (allergy-prone people may be most susceptible).

Start slowly: use just a few petals or florets until you become more sure of the taste and texture they will impart to your dish.

Rinse the flowers gently in cool water and pat them dry; store between slightly dampened paper towels.

Use flowers at their peak: unopened buds, faded or wilted flowers will not taste best

FLOWER JELLY
MAKES ABOUT 4 HALF-PINT JARS

2 cups, flower blossoms OR 3 cups, flower petals (Note: if using roses, snip away the bitter white parts)
2 cups, water
1/2 cup, sugar
1 cup, white grape juice
1 (3/4-ounce) package, powdered fruit pectin
3 cups, sugar


In a non-reactive saucepan (use stainless steel, ceramic or enameled iron) place the flowers, water and the 1/2 cup of sugar. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cover, and allow to stand for at least several hours - preferably overnight - to infuse flavors.

Strain the flowers from the syrup (discard the flowers) and place the syrup in a large, heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot. Add the grape juice and pectin. Bring the contents of the pot to a hard, rolling boil, and boil for 1 minute.

Add the sugar all at once and stir well to combine. Bring this mixture back to a hard boil (the mixture should remain boiling when stirred) and boil vigorously for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Place a few flower petals or a blossom floret in the bottom of each hot, sterilized 1/2-pint jelly jar. Ladle in the prepared jelly, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Carefully wipe the rim of the jar clean and seal the jar with a sterilized lid and ring. Cover the jars with a tea towel, away from any draft, and allow to cool to room temperature. Label and store at cool room temperature.

[Note: If any jars have not sealed when cooling is completed (allow at least 12 hours), refrigerate them, and use the contents within 2 weeks.]

EDIBLE FLOWERS
anise hyssop, basil, bergamot, bee balm, begonias, borage, calendula, chamomile, chive blossoms, citrus blossoms or petals, garlic chives, chrysanthemums, dandelions, day lilies, fuchsias, scented geraniums, hibiscus, lavender, lemon verbena, lilacs, marigolds (small-flower types are best), nasturtium, passion flower, rose petals, rosemary flowers, sage blossoms, sunflowers, tulips, violas, violets

POISONOUS FLOWERS
When in doubt, check first with your poison control center!
azalea, buttercup, crocus, daffodil, foxglove, holly (leaves and berries), honeysuckle, hydrangea, jade plant, lily of the valley, mistletoe (leaves and berries), oleander, philodendron, poinsettia, rhododendron, schefflera, spider plant.

IDEAS FOR USING FLOWERS IN THE KITCHEN
Make a composed butter: soften a stick of unsalted butter, and beat in about 1/2 cup of finely chopped or shredded flowers. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and/or shallots. Refrigerate until ready to use on breads and rolls, steaks off the grill, pancakes or waffles, fish, vegetables or pasta.

Scent sugar with sweet aromatic flowers: Using a lidded jar, layer the small flowers or petals of your choice with granulated sugar. Put on the lid, shake the jar and allow to infuse for two-three weeks.

Dry flower petals (in a 150-degree oven, or air dry thoroughly) and save them in a tightly lidded jar for infusing in tea. Use 1 teaspoon of dried petals per cup if boiling water.
Brush small flowers (using a tiny paint brush) with beaten egg white or gum arabic, then dust with superfine sugar. Air dry thoroughly on wax paper. Use to decorate desserts and pastries.

Float flowers on soups or in punchbowls. Decorate desserts with fresh flowers. Freeze flowers or petals in ice cubes.

Toss small flowers or petals in salads.
Stuff blossoms or leaves with savory hors d’oeuvre fillings.












adapted from: Flowers in the Kitchen by Susan Belsinger (Interweave Press)