I am taking a break from my herb series today. I just took my dog for a walk and was enjoying all the blooming flowers today and thought edible flowers would be fun to explore. The definition of edible flowers is a lot wider than I thought that include many commonplace flowers that are all around you daily.
Edible flowers can be used for decoration, I have used plenty of edible flowers in my plating at work; they look so elegant (except for those WAY over-used damn purple edible orchids that EVERY sushi bar seems to use to death) and the fragrant ones can be used as an aromatic. They look gorgeous in salads or on any dish really. Especially in the summer!
They can also be added to sauces or dressings but can be easily ruined by becoming mushy, wilted, or drowned out and lost. The best way to add flowers to your dish is to add them as close to the end of preparation and close to serving as possible. Edible flowers are also great candied, made into jellies or syrups.
The use of flowers in food dates back to mid 100’s B.C.
They were transported in ancient times with the same care as valuable spices. Ancient Romans, Greeks and Chinese recommended edible flowers (Romans and Greeks used mallow, rose and violets) for medicinal purposes while around the same time the Incas, Aztecs, and Hindus used flowers for religious rituals. Medieval monks used calendula in their cooking and preserved violets by turning them into sweet syrup. Edible flowers in general are thought to be cleansing for the body and are also used in teas. You should watch a jasmine tea flower open sometime in your teacup filled with hot water. It is gorgeous! Bea balm tea was used instead of black tea during the Boston Tea party of 1773 and Victorians and Edwardians candied violets and borage to decorate cakes and sweets.
Some edible flowers can be quite inexpensive and could be picked straight out of your own backyard, like dandelions (whether you want them there or not!) while some are very expensive and highly prized like saffron.
Here is a short list of some edible flowers to get your imagination going!
I have also included a recipe for candied rose petals (they are just so pretty) and rose water.
Rose water is great for everything from using it as a diuretic and detoxing agent. The healthy water also contains Vitamins A, C, D, E and B! It is considered a mood-enhancer and helps with depression. It can also be used as an antibacterial, an anti-inflammatory and ease symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. More uses for rose water include using it for pain, decongesting sinuses and asthma, menstrual disorders, scalp issues, bug bites and diarrhea.
It is also used as a relaxant (bath time!) and used in many soaps, and lotions cleaning solutions. Culinary uses can be drinks, savory dishes (film fans: Like Water For Chocolate, remember the rose petal sauce?), deserts, puddings, cakes and even curries. The possibilities are endless!!!!
Candied Rose Petals
2 ORGANIC roses, petals removed
1 large egg white only, lightly beaten OR simple syrup ( 2parts sugar, 1 part water. Boil to dissolve sugar while stirring constantly. Remove from heat as soon as sugar dissolves)
Line a baking sheet with wax paper or a silpad. Brush both side of every rose petal with the egg white and dip them in the sugar immediately after. Let them dry on the lined baking sheet. Use them for decoration or eat them alone for teatime!
Clean ORGANIC rose petals or herbs
Place a heavy glass ramekin into a deep stockpot. Fill the ramekin 3/4 full with water to weigh it down. Place rose petals or herbs around the exterior of the ramekin in the bottom of the pot and cover with water halfway up the side of the ramekin. Place a shallow soup bowl on top of the ramekin. Bring the water and rose petals to a boil. Lower heat to simmer.
Place a stainless steel bowl on top of the stockpot. It should be large enough to seal the pot, but shallow enough so that its bottom is above the top level of the soup bowl. Fill the top bowl with ice.
Simmer the mixture 3 to 4 hours, depending on the amount. As the mixture boils, the heat rises and hits the cold bowl, causing it to condense and drip down into the inner bowl. Replace ice as needed as it melts.
When done, the small bowl will contain the rose. It will have a layer of rose oil that is the essential oil or extract. The oil may be separated from the water. You can separate the oil and water if you choose by using a separatory funnel, it’s a teardrop shaped container with a stopcock at the bottom used mainly for scientific purposes. You can use this method with any herb or flower, go crazy! Let me know what you make!
Photos compliments of Getty Images