Monday, June 23, 2014

Flowers for Breakfast...

Marigold, Thimbleberry, Thyme, Salsify, Borage, Pea, Lavender, Dandelion, Nasturtium, Blackberry, Pak Choi

Flowers are an unusual and underused way to brighten and beautify your plate.  Seeing the sad, wilting, expensive box of organic flowers in my grocery store every week never inspired me to try edible flowers.  Last year, I grew some nasturtiums as a pest control measure in my garden and was surprised at how delicious they were!  One of my favorite early Summer drinks is lavender lemonade, so much so that I bought the lavender we have just so I can make it once a year.  This year, I bought some new veggies because I'm always trying new things and found I love borage and since my pak choi came up and went directly to seed, we have been eating the blossoms.  Last night, while inspecting my squash for potential blossoms, it occurred to me how many edibles I had blooming right now.  So here I am sharing them with you!  This is by no means an exhaustive list of all edible plants.  It's more like a snapshot of my garden in the middle of June.  If you are equally uninspired by your grocery store, may I suggest planting a flower garden?

Crackers on the Couch: Edible Flowers, Maridold

Marigolds have a bitter taste at first that mellows out into a floral aftertaste.

Uses: Salads, garnishes, jelly
Crackers on the Couch: Edible Flowers, Thyme Blossoms

Thyme: First taste is like a slightly sweet thyme, which is followed by a little herbal burn (similar to fresh oregano), finishes as a straight thyme flavor.

Uses: Salads, smoothies, soups, garnish for chicken

Crackers on the Couch: Edible Flowers, Salsify Flowers

Salsify: Slightly sweet petals, the stem starts out with a green flavor, becomes peppery and ultimately tastes very similar to thyme.

Facebook users may recognize this as my quiz plant from a few weeks ago. Nobody got it right!

Uses: Salads, salad dressings
Crackers on the Couch: Edible Flowers, Blackberry Flowers

Himalayan Blackberry petals are slightly bitter, the stamen are powdery and lacking flavor, but the blossoms are undeniably beautiful.

Uses: Salads, garnish
Crackers on the Couch: Edible Flowers, Pak Choi Blossoms

Pak Choi taste very much like how daffodils smell: floral, earthy, and fresh.  They have a slight kale or broccoli flavor, being in the same family.

Uses: Salads, smoothies
Crackers on the Couch: Edible Flowers, Blue Podded Pea blossomCrackers on the Couch: Edible Flowers, Little Marvel Pea Blossom

Garden Peas: The white flower is off a bush pea called Little Marvel and the purple one is off a climber called a Blue Podded Pea.  They taste like green peas, fresh out of the garden, pod and all.  The finish is very similar to alfalfa sprouts. 

*I was going to give a warning about Sweet Peas, the ornamental flower, since I had heard they were poisonous.  Mr. Internet says this is a bit of a misconception.  The only thing that isn't safe to eat in large quantities is the hardened seed of the Sweet Pea.  Still, if you want to be cautious, don't eat them.  More flowers for bees!

Uses: Salads, garnish
Crackers on the Couch: Edible Flowers, Spanish Lavender Blossoms

Spanish lavender has a strong, herbal, well basically, lavendery flavor. 

Uses: Lemonade, baking

Thimbleberry petals have a very slight floral citrus taste.

Uses: Salads, salad dressing, garnish

Borage: Once you get past the fur, you are rewarded with a strong cucumber flavor.

Uses: Salads, sandwiches, salad dressing

Nasturtium: Spicy, think horseradish without the burn, peppery, finishing with a slightly sweet taste.

Uses: Salad, garnish, salad dressing, pizza

Dandelion: The petals are really fabulously sweet, but the greens taste like earwax, so pluck these before adding them to anything.

Uses: Salads, wine, jelly, tea

If you want to use flowers in your salad, I suggest picking them before you are ready to serve.  Many of these flowers wilt soon after picking.  Nasturtiums, marigolds, lavender, and borage will last the longest, but any Mom who's been given a dandelion bouquet knows how quickly those go south!

My spinach, pak choi, cilantro, and lettuce are bolting right now.  I've been using the flowers in smoothies every morning to try to extend the season a bit.  I'll be doing the same thing as soon as the purslane, and basil go.
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