Marigolds seasoned the venison, roses graced the stew, and violets mingled with wild onion in the salad.”
–Medieval feast description
The culinary use of flowers dates back thousands of years to the Chinese, Greek and Romans. Flowers add a fresh and unique flavour to your dishes and should be used only if you are certain if they are fit for consumption.
It is important to keep in mind that one should never use flowers that are not edible. It is easy and looks extremely attractive to use flowers for garnishing or for decorating your food, but it is very important to avoid using non-edible flowers. People generally believe that everything served as part of the dish is safe to be consumed. They may not be aware of the edibility of the flower and may refrain from asking the same.
Use pesticides only that are safe to be used and don’t interfere with the edibility of the crops.Never eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centres, since these flowers might have been treated with pesticides not labelled as food crops. Picking flowers from the roadside also poses similar risks since there might be possible use of herbicide which eliminates the usability of these flowers.
Before you begin to consume, remove the pistils and stamens from the flowers. In most cases, it is advisable to eat only the flower petals. The flavour of the flowers will differ under various conditions such as soil types, fertilization and culture. Environmental conditions too play a very important role. A flower that has excellent flavour at one season may taste different when consumed during the end of the season or next year. Introducing flowers, one species at time in small quantities, while preparing the food may add on to the flavour. Too much of a good thing may also cause problems to our digestive system, which is why it is advisable to use it in moderation. Enjoy and relinquish the different flavours and colours that edible flowers add to the food.
It is essential to collect flowers at the most appropriate time. Flowers that are not fully open (unless he buds are desired) or the ones starting to wilt should be avoided. Before harvesting, sample a flower or two carefully for flavour. Since the pollen not only has the ability to detract the flavour of the flower, but also cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, remove the pistils and stamens.
Short stemmed flowers should be placed between layers of damp paper towels or should be reserved in a plastic bag and ideally kept in the refrigerator. Before using the flowers, gently wash the flowers so as to remove dirt and insects. Since some flowers tend to discolour in water, it is essential to test a flower for color fastness.
Only the petals of flowers such as Rose, Tulip, Yucca and Lavender are edible. Prior to its usage, it is important to separate the flower petals from the rest of the flower to ensure that the wilting is kept to a minimum. Some flowers like Roses, Dianthus, English Daisies and Marigolds have a bitter white area at the base of the petal and it is advisable to remove this portion before using the flowers for garnishing.
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