There are so many resources with wonderful ideas for using flowers as food.  Because this program was researched and presented to the Unit in February, the recipes I gravitated to were ones using the flowers that were flourishing in the south Texas winter at the time.  The calendula, pansies, violas, dianthus, and (immediately before our hard freeze) antique roses were plentiful and in full bloom.


The recipes demonstrated were as follows:


  • Lavender Hibiscus Limeade with Floral Ice Ring
  • Calendula Spinach Quiche
  • Arugula Salad with Beets, Hazelnuts and Pickled Rose Petals
  • Mardi Gras Salad with Dill Vinaigrette
  • Butterfly Pea Blue Rice with Blackberry Hibiscus Chutney
  • Hummingbird Cupcakes with Flowerfetti
  • White Pepper Thumbprints with Hibiscus Lemongrass Jelly
  • Pansy Shortbread Hearts
  • Calendula Cranberry Cornmeal Crisps

Lavender Hibiscus Limeade

Ingredients
2 large limes, juiced (at least ¼ cup juice)
Lime peels from 2 limes
1½ cups sugar
2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp hibiscus flower
1 tbsp lavender flowers

Directions
Thoroughly dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Add hibiscus flowers, lavender and lime peels to water. Steep for 5 minutes.

Strain out all flowers and fruit.  Cool concentrated liquid.  Add lime juice.

Dilute with cool water to make 2 qts. finished limeade.

Pickled Rose Petals

https://www.marthastewart.com/971837/pickled-rose-petals, accessed 14 February 2024.

Ingredients
¼ cup lightly packed unsprayed rugosa rose petals (about ½ ounce), picked over, gently submerged in water, and drained on paper towels
¼ cup white-wine vinegar
2¼ teaspoons honey
½ teaspoons coarse salt

Directions
Place rose petals in a nonreactive bowl. Bring vinegar, honey, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring until salt and honey dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes; pour over rose petals and let cool, about 15 minutes.



Arugula, Beets and Yogurt with Pickled Rose Petals

Inspired by Martha Stewart Living, May 2013.
https://www.marthastewart.com/971838/beets-and-yogurt-pickled-rose-petals

Serve with Poppy-Seed Lavash, or substitute with store-bought lavash, lightly brushed with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled with poppy seeds, and warmed in the oven.

Ingredients
Coarse salt
1 can whole baby red beets (about 12 ounces), drained - not pickled
½ stick unsalted butter
2 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 ½ inches long)
¼ cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts

Arugula (about 6 to 8 ounces)

½ cup plain Greek yogurt
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

For Vinaigrette
¼ cup olive oil
3 tbsp reserved pickling juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pickled Rose Petals, for garnish, plus 2-3 tablespoon vinaigrette made from pickling liquid for drizzling.

Directions
Slice drained beets into thin discs. 
(Note: fresh roasted beets can absolutely be used.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously season with coarse salt. Add about 12 ounces fresh baby beets with root and stem removed, reduce heat, and simmer until beets are tender and easily pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain beets; when cool enough to handle, gently rub with a paper towel (or use a paring knife) to remove the skin, keeping as much of the root end intact as possible. Transfer beets to a bowl, cover to keep warm, and set aside.)

Melt butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add allspice, bay leaves, and cinnamon and cook until butter is nutty in aroma and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Pour butter through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Whisk 1 teaspoon coarse salt and hazelnuts into brown butter.

Make a bed of arugula on platter.


Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl.  

Thin Greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp of vinaigrette. 

Arrange beets on arugula, drizzle with vinaigrette.  Drizzle Greek yogurt/vinaigrette mixture over.  Spoon brown butter and nuts on top, and sprinkle lightly with flaky salt. Garnish with rose petals and serve immediately.

Dill Vinaigrette


Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp fresh dill weed, finely chopped

½ tsp paprika

¼ tsp salt

2 tbsp shallots, finely chopped

1 tsp agave nectar or honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard or ½ tsp dry mustard


Combine all ingredients in a screwtop jar and shake vigorously to blend.

Click button to see "OK TO EAT" Flowers

  • As with herbs, it's best if you gather flowers on a warm, dry morning before the sun becomes strong and the essential oils are diminished.
  • Wash flowers by gently dipping in a bowl of water, then gently shake to remove as much water as possible. If flowers are a little "buggy" and a gentle dip doesn't remove the insects, try a wash in cool salty water.
  • Remove any green parts surrounding the flowers (the stem and the calyx).
  • Remove the bitter white “heel” at the base of the petal if the flower has them.
  • Eat only the petals, removing pistils and stamens.  The exception to this is for tiny flowers like basil, oregano, violas, thyme, etc.  Tiny flowers can be eaten whole with just the stems removed.
  • Taste flowers before you use them in a recipe, as their flavor can vary according to variety and cultural conditions.
  • If you are not using flowers immediately, keep them perky in a vase of water, floating in a shallow tray of water, or put them straight in the fridge in a plastic container with a dry paper towel.  Use within a few days.
​​

Have you eaten flowers before?  If you’d asked me when I first ate a flower, I would have probably answered that I had never eaten a flower before joining the Herb Society and was invited to taste a nasturtium while working in the Unit's teaching garden. But…  I’d be wrong! I was actually eating flowers long before that. We probably all have. Broccoli. Cauliflower. Brussels sprouts. Cloves. Capers. Vanilla. Artichoke. Flowers!

Flowers have been part of the diets of civilizations around the world for centuries. And they’ve been essential to pharmaceutical use just as long.  They are now used, and have been used in, cuisines from each of the inhabited continents.

The culinary uses of flowers are quite varied.  Flowers are useful for their distinct flavors, their scents, their colors and their texture.  They can be used fresh, dried, frozen, candied and pickled. They are used as garnish, in teas and tissanes, as culinary dyes, as candied sweets, in herbal butters or cheeses, in jellies, vinegars, and syrups, and in liqueurs, cordials, liquors, wines, beers, bitters and meads.

My hope is that you will, like I did, come away with the same enthusiasm for incorporating flowers into your everyday menu.  I already had a list of go-to flowers I like to use. After researching for this program, I have greatly expanded that list of flowers.

Two unexpected and exciting outcomes have come from my research for this program.

  • First – We have a fairly small garden.  When the swingset was outgrown and our herb beds took over the back yard, I swore that we only had room for plants we could cook with.  It didn’t take long before someone offered me a plant I couldn’t refuse and I broke my vow.  For the most part, our garden is herbs.  But now I know, that beautiful Rose of Sharon is edible. Those antique roses, edible.  Szechuan buttons/toothache plant, edible (but not for the faint of heart).
  • Second – Maybe I’ll stop working so hard to eradicate some of the “weeds” in our yard and garden. Many of their flowers are edible!  Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis) and Pink Woodsorrel (Oxalis articulata) are both edible. Japanese Hawkweed or Oriental False Hawksbeard (Crepis japonica and Youngia japonica) which I actually thought was a dandelion, has tiny flowers that you can eat, but more importantly, is a nutrient rich potherb.

​Hummingbird Cake

Adapted from NYT Cooking: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1022207-hummingbird-cake, accessed 14 February 2024
By Vallery Lomas


Ingredients for the Cake
Nonstick baking spray
3¾ cups/480 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups/340 grams overripe mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 packed cup/220 grams dark brown sugar
1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
1 cup/240 milliliters vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 (8-ounce/227-gram) cans crushed pineapple in juice (about 1¾ cups)
¾ cup/85 grams chopped toasted pecan halves

Ingredients for the Frosting
2(8-ounce/226-gram) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
7⅓ cups/905 grams confectioners’ sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest from one large orange
Edible flowers, for garnish

Directions
Prepare the cake:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three (9-inch) cake pans with nonstick baking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a second large bowl, whisk together the eggs, mashed bananas, sugars, oil and vanilla.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients to the center of the well. Gently fold using a rubber spatula to combine. Add the pineapple and pecans, and fold again until just incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. Bake until golden, cooked through and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Move the cakes to a wire baking rack to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then, remove from the pans and allow to cool completely on the wire racks

As cakes cool, make the cream cheese frosting:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, orange zest and vanilla. Mix on low speed until all the ingredients just come together. Then, increase the speed to medium and mix until creamy and smooth, about 5 minutes.

Assemble the cake:
Place the first layer of the cake top-side down onto a cake stand or plate. Spread the top with cream cheese frosting. Repeat with the second two layers, always placing the top side down to create a very flat surface. Frost the top and sides of the cake.

Garnish with the edible flowers, as desired. Slice and serve.


White Pepper Thumbprint Cookies with Hibiscus Lemongrass Jam

Adapted from Cooking with Flowers by Miche Bacher
Bacher, Miche. Cooking with Flowers. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2013.

Makes about 18 cookies.


Ingredients
¼ c confectioners’ sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp blanched almond flour
6 Tbsp cool unsalted butter
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
¾ tsp ground white pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all of the cookie ingredients with a mixer on medium-high speed for about 4 minutes until a shaggy, sticky dough is formed.

Scoop dough by the tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 1-1/2 inches of space around each cookie.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden, and then make an indentation in the top of each cookie with the back of a wooden spoon.  Bake for 2 minutes more, or until the edges are fully golden.

Place the sheets on a wire rack to cool.  Drop a teaspoon of jam in the center of each one.  These cookies can be stored, unfilled, in an airtight container for 10 days: once filled, they should be eaten within one day.

This recipe works equally as well with lilac, violet, rose or dandelion jam.

Rules for Flower Eaters

  • Positively identify the plant – Latin name and all. Don’t rely on the common name. Identification is crucial.
  • Eat only those flowers you know to be safe; some kinds are toxic.
  • Eat only organically grown edible flowers. NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat.
  • Don’t eat flowers from nurseries, florists or garden centers; allow flowers on purchased plants to go through a bloom cycle before cooking with them.
  • Don’t eat flowers picked from heavily traveled roadsides.
  • Don’t assume that because an animal is eating a plant, it is safe.
  • Not all parts of a toxic plant are necessarily harmful.  An example is rhubarb or potatoes – the leaves of both of these are poisonous.
  • Make sure it’s clear to children that some flowers are edible and others can make them sick.
  • Don’t assume that a flower is edible just because it is garnish on a dinner plate.  Ask your server.  …and make it your rule to never use any flowers as a garnish that your guests should not eat.
  • Don’t eat flowers if you have a history of allergies, asthma or hayfever.

​(Crustless) Calendula Quiche

Inspired by Miche Bacher, Cooking with Flowers
Bacher, Miche. Cooking with Flowers. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2013.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Liberally butter 9-inch pie pan.

Ingredients
3 cups loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 small onion finely chopped (about ½ cup)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup (6 oz.) soft goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup calendula petals, chopped into pieces no longer than ¼ inch (from about 20 flowers)
½ tsp salt

Directions
In a skillet over medium heat, cook spinach and chopped onions in olive oil until the leaves are fully wilted, about 3 minutes.  Drain.  Sprinkle with grated nutmeg.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and cream together.  Add goat cheese, calendula petals and salt and whisk again.

Arrange spinach in the bottom of the prepared pie plate and pour egg mixture over top.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until the custard is set in the center and the top is golden brown.

Pansy Topped Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Sue Moran
From The View from Great Island , https://theviewfromgreatisland.com/wprm_print/83285

Makes about 24 -  2” cookies

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
assorted fresh pansies you'll need about 30, give or take

Instructions
Put the sugar and soft butter into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine completely.

Add the flour and extract, and pulse about 10 times, then run the machine briefly, just until the dough comes together into a lump or lumps.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and bring together into a smooth flat disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 2 hours.


While the dough is chilling, remove the stems from the pansies.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F.

Roll out the dough to a 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with a cookie cutter. I used a 2 inch heart-shaped cutter.

Bake the cookies in batches, 1 tray at a time. Bake the cookies for 7-9 minutes, depending on thickness. Your cookies will not brown, they will be pale and soft when done.

Remove the tray from the oven and gently press the flat pansies onto the hot cookies, pressing slightly to adhere the flowers to the cookies. Don't press too hard, the heat of the cookies will do the job.


Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Let the cookies cool completely on a rack.

Note: the cookies will be soft when they come out of the oven, but will firm up as they cool.

Blackberry Hibiscus Chutney

Adapted from Miche Bacher, Cooking with Flowers
Bacher, Miche. Cooking with Flowers. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2013.

2 pints fresh blackberries
8 hibiscus flowers in syrup, finely chopped*
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
½ cup white wine vinegar

*Hibiscus flowers in syrup can be purchased in jars.  Alternatively, you can place dried hibiscus flowers in equal parts of water and sugar and boil down to a syrup.

Put all ingredients except the vinegar into a saucepan.  Cook and occasionally stir the mixture over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the vinegar and let the mixture simmer and thicken for about 10 minutes more.  This chutney will last for up to 6 weeks when refrigerated in an airtight container.

Chutney tastes best if allowed to mature several days before serving.


Cooking Inspiration for Your Edible Petals

Calendula Cornmeal Crisps

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

From:  Belsinger, Susan. “Calendula - a Golden Herb for Garden and Kitchen.” The Herb Companion, vol. 20, no. 3, March 2008, pp. 26 – 31.


Ingredients
½ cup sugar
¼ cup fresh or dried calendula petals
½ cup pecans
6 tbsp dried cranberries
½ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tbsp + 2 tsp whole wheat flour
3 tbsp yellow cornmeal
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Scant ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
6 tbsp softened, unsalted butter cut into 6 pieces
1 medium egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions
In a food processor, combine sugar and calendula; pulse until calendula starts to break down into smaller pieces.  Transfer calendula sugar to a shallow bowl.

Pulse (or chop with a knife) pecans and cranberries until coarsely chopped; transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, combine flours, cornmeal, baking powder and nutmeg.  Toss to mix.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Measure 5 tbsp of the calendula sugar and put it in food processor with butter, Process until creamy and blended, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape sides if necessary.  Add egg and pulse for about 1 minute.  Add vanilla and pulse to blend.  Add dry ingredients and process until just blended; do not over mix.

Transfer dough to bowl with nuts and fruit; stir to distribute nuts and fruit evenly.  Using a spoon or your fingers, scoop about 1 tbsp of dough and roll it into a ball about 1 inch in diameter or slightly bigger. Roll balls in remaining calendula sugar and place on baking sheets, spacing balls about 2 inches apart.

Using a flat-bottomed glass, gently press balls to about ¼ inch thickness. (Dip bottom of glass into sugar occasionally to prevent sticking.)

Bake cookies about 14 minutes, until their edges are lightly browned.  If baking two sheets at once, switch places halfway through baking time.

Remove cookies from sheets immediately and cool on racks. (If the cookies cool on the pans, they will harden and break when removed.)  Store in a tightly covered tin.

References:
Bacher, Miche. Cooking with Flowers: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender and Other Edible Petals. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2013.
Belsinger, Susan. “Calendula - a Golden Herb for Garden and Kitchen.” The Herb Companion, vol. 20, no. 3, March 2008, pp. 26 – 31.
Brown, Kathy. Edible Flowers. London: Aquamarine, 2008.
Creasy, Rosalind. The Edible Flower Garden. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 1999.
Gardner, Jigs and Joann. “Wild about Violas.” The Herb Companion, vol. 14, no. 6, August/September 2002, pp. 38 – 39.
Greenaway, Kate. Language of Flowers. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1884.
Kirker, Constance L. Edible Flowers: A Global History. London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 2017.

Sear, Juliet. Botanical Baking:  Contemporary Baking and cake decorating with edible flowers and herbs. Blue Ash, OH: F&W Media International, 2019.
Stern, Loria. Eat Your Flowers. New York: Harper Collins, 2023.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Flowers and Their Meanings: The Language of Flowers. https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/flowers-and-their-meanings-language-flowers, accessed 14 February 2024.
Thompson & Morgan.  Edible Flowers Guide.  https://www.thompson-morgan.com/edible-flowers, accessed 14 February 2024.

Submitted by Benée Curtis

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