Thursday, June 26, 2008

I came Upon this wonderful mural of fruits and vegetables and wanted to share it. I hope I gave proper credit.
-David

photo Andrea Micholini

Friday, June 13, 2008

Treats From The Flower Garden

The next time you entertain, impress your guests with edible flowers – a touch of the exotic from your own backyard. If you would like to experiment with some local plants, you can find a list with ideas below. In addition to the flowers described there, the flowers of all herbs are edible and can be used much as you would the leaves themselves. But before you begin, take note of what NOT TO EAT. The following are the most common poisonous plants and flowers, but this list is by no means complete. If the plant isn’t here, that doesn't necessarily make it edible or non-poisonous. Be sure you know what you are putting in your mouth!

Some flowers in particular to be avoided are: aconite (wolfsbane, monkhood), azalea, anemone (windflower), belladonna, buttercup, butterfly weed, clematis, crocus, daffodil, delphinium (larkspur), foxglove, goldenseal, hydrangea, iris, jack-in-the-pulpit, lily of the valley, lobelia, morning glory, oleander, periwinkle (myrtle, vinca), rhododendron, sweet pea, trumpet flower, and wisteria.

Here are some you CAN experiment with:

Alliums (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives): Known as the "Flowering Onions." There are approximately four hundred species that includes the familiar onion, garlic, chives, ramps, and shallots. Their flavors range from mild to strong. All parts of the plants are edible. The flowers tend to be stronger than the leaves and the young developing seed-heads are even stronger. The flowers are used flowers mainly in salads.
Chive Blossoms: Use whenever a light onion flavor and aroma is desired.
Garlic Blossoms: The flowers can be white or pink, and the stems are flat instead of round. Milder than the garlic bulb. Wonderful in salads.
Anise Hyssop: Both flowers and leaves have a delicate licorice flavor that some people say is reminiscent of root beer. The blossoms make attractive plate garnishes and are often used in Chinese-style dishes.
Apple Blossoms: A delicate floral flavor and aroma that makes a nice garnish in to fruit dishes. NOTE: Eat in moderation as the flowers may contain cyanide precursors. The seeds of the apple fruit and their wild relations are poisonous
Arugula: Also called garden rocket, roquette, rocket-salad, Oruga, Rocketsalad, rocket-gentle; Raukenkohl (German); rouquelle (French); rucola (Italian). The flowers taste very similar to the leaves and can be used in salad for a piquant flavor.
Bee Balm - Also called Wild Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, Horsemint, Monarda: Bee balm flowers are described by some as tasting like oregano and mint, while others say bee balm is reminiscent of citrus with soft mingling of lemon and orange. Any place you use oregano, you can use bee balm blossoms. The flower petals can also be used in both fruit and regular salads. The leaves taste like the main ingredient in Earl Gray tea and can be used as a substitute.
Borage: The lovely cornflower blue, star-shaped flowers have a cool, cucumber taste. Wonderful in punches, lemonade, gin and tonics, sorbets, chilled soups, and dips.
Burnet: The taste is likened to cucumbers, and burnet can be used interchangeably with borage.
Calendula - Also called Marigolds: A wonderful edible flower with a flavor that ranges from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Their sharp taste resembles saffron (also known as Poor Man’s Saffron). Sprinkle petals on soups, pasta or rice dishes, herb butters, and salads. Petals add a yellow tint to soups, spreads and scrambled eggs.
Carnations: To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts or as a cake decoration, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Dianthus are the miniature member of the carnation family with light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Petals add color to salads.
Chamomile: Flowers are small and daisy-like, with a sweet, apple-like flavor. NOTE: ragweed sufferers may be allergic to chamomile.
Chrysanthemums: Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. Blanch first and then scatter the petals on a salad. Always remove the bitter flower base and use petals only. The leaves can also be used to flavor vinegar.
Cornflower - Also called Bachelor’s Button: A slightly sweet to spicy, clove-like flavor. Bloom is a natural food dye. Most commonly used as garnish.
Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) - Also called Sweet Rocket or Dame's Violet: This plant is often mistaken for Phlox. To identify, Phlox has five petals, while Dame's Rocket has just four. The plant is part of the mustard family, which also includes radishes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and, mustard. The plant and flowers are edible, but fairly bitter. The flowers are attractive added to green salads.
Dandelions - Member of the Daisy family: Flowers are sweetest when picked young and just before eating. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. Dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers: best to pick these when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball. Good raw or steamed. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.
Day Lilies: Slightly sweet with a mild vegetable flavor and chewable consistency. Some people think that the different colored blossoms have different flavors. To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Also great to stuff like squash blossoms. Flowers look beautiful on salad platters or crowning a frosted cake. Sprinkle the large petals in a spring salad. In the spring, gather shoots two or three inches tall and use as a substitute for asparagus or green beans. NOTE: Many Lilies contain alkaloids and are NOT edible. Also, Day Lilies may act as a diuretic or laxative so eat in moderation
English Daisy: The flowers have a mildly bitter taste and are used more for their looks than their flavor as a garnish and in salads.
Fuchsia: Blooms have a slightly acidic flavor. The explosive colors and graceful shape make a beautiful garnish.
Gladoilus: Flowers (anthers removed) have a nondescript flavor (taste vaguely like lettuce) but make lovely container for sweet or savory spreads or mousses. Toss individual petals in salads.
Hibiscus: Cranberry-like flavor with citrus overtones. Use slightly acidic petals sparingly in salads or as garnish.
Hollyhock: Very bland flavor.
Honeysuckle: Sweet honey flavor. Only the flowers are edible. Berries are highly poisonous - Do not eat them!
Imaptiens: Very bland taste.
Jasmine: The flowers are intensely fragrant and are traditionally used for scenting tea.
Johnny Jump-Ups: The lovely yellow, white and purple blooms have a mild wintergreen flavor and can be used in salads, to decorate cakes, or served with soft cheese. They are also a great addition to drinks, soups, desserts or salads.
Lavender: Sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. Flowers look beautiful and taste yummy in a glass of champagne, with chocolate cake, or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. Lavender also lends itself to savory dishes, from hearty stews to wine-reduced sauces.
Lemon Verbena: Tiny cream-colored citrus-scented blossoms can be steeped as an herb tea and used to flavor custards and flans.
Lilac: The flavor of lilacs varies from plant to plant. Very perfumey, slightly bitter lemony taste with pungent floral overtones. Interesting in salads.
Mint: The flavor of the flowers is minty, with different overtones depending on the variety.
Nasturtiums: Nasturtiums rank among most common edible flower with brilliant sunset colors and a sweet, spicy flavor similar to watercress. Use entire flowers to garnish platters, salads, open-faced sandwiches, and savory appetizers.
Pansy: Pansies have a slightly sweet green or grassy flavor. If you eat only the petals, the flavor is extremely mild, but if you eat the whole flower, there is a stronger overtone. Use in fruit salads, green salad, desserts or soups.
Pea Blossoms: Edible garden peas blossoms are slightly sweet and crunchy and taste like peas. The shoots and vine tendrils are also edible, with a delicate, pea-like flavor. Harvesting blooms will diminish your pea yield, so you may want to plant extra if you are interested in eating the flowers. NOTE: Flowering ornamental sweet pea flowers are poisonous.
Peony: In China the fallen petals are traditionally parboiled and sweetened as a tea-time delicacy. Peony water was used for drinking in the middle ages. Add peony petals to your summer salad or try floating in punches and lemonades.
Primrose: Colorful with a sweet, but bland taste.
Queen Anne’s Lace - Also known as Wild Carrot and Bishop's Lace: It is the original carrot, from which modern cultivars were developed, and it is edible with a light carrot flavor. The flowers are small and white, and bloom in a lacy, flat-topped cluster. Great in salads. NOTE: The problem is, Queen Anne’s Lace is closely related to, and looks almost exactly like another wild plant, Wild or Poison Hemlock which often grows profusely in similar habitats and is said to be the most poisonous plant native to the United States. The best way to differentiate between the two plants is to remember that Queen Anne's Lace has a hairy stem, while the stems of Wild Hemlock are smooth and hairless and hollow with purple spots.
Roses: Flavor depends on type, color, and soil conditions but generally sweet, with subtle undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice. All roses are edible, with the flavor being more pronounced in darker varieties. Miniature roses can garnish ice cream and desserts, while larger petals can be sprinkled on desserts or salads. Freeze in ice cubes and float them in punches. Petals are also used in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads. NOTE: Be sure to remove the bitter white portion of the petals.
Scented Geraniums: The flower flavor generally corresponds to the variety. For example, a lemon-scented geranium would have lemon-scented flowers. They come in fragrances from citrus and spice to fruits and flowers. Sprinkle over desserts and in cold drinks or freeze in ice cubes. NOTE: Citronelle variety may not be edible.
Squash Blossom: Squash and pumpkin blossoms are edible and taste mildly of raw squash. Prepare the blossoms by washing and trimming the stems and remove the stamens. Stuff them with cheese, rice, mashed tofu, or leftovers, then bake or coat with an egg batter and sauté.
Sunflower: The flower is best eaten in the bud stage when it tastes similar to artichokes. Once the flower opens, the petals may be used like chrysanthemums, but the flavor is distinctly bittersweet. The unopened flower buds can also be steamed like artichokes.
Sweet Woodruff: The flower is sweet and grassy with a hint of nutty, vanilla flavor. NOTE: Can have a blood thinning effect if eaten in large amounts.
Tuberous Begonia: Begonia blossoms have a delicious citrus sour taste and a juicy crunch that add flavor and beauty to a summer salad. Since the flowers (and stems) contain oxalic acid, they should not be consumed by anyone suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism. NOTE: Only Hybrids are edible.
Tulip Petals: Flavor varies from tulip to tulip, but generally the petals taste like sweet lettuce, fresh baby peas, or have a cucumber-like texture and flavor. NOTE: Some people have had strong allergic reactions to them. If touching causes a rash, numbness etc., don't eat them! Don't eat the bulbs ever.
Violets: Sweet, perfumey flavor. Use the flowers to beautify desserts and cold drinks. Freeze in ice cubes for iced drinks. Make pretty adornments for frosted cakes, sorbets, or any other desserts. Teart-shaped leaves are edible as well, and tasty when cooked like spinach.
Yucca Petals: The white Yucca flower is crunchy with a mildly sweet taste and a hint of artichoke). Use in salads and as a garnish.

-- Nikki

Photo posted on Flickr.com by cheeseloaf

Flowers You Can Eat

Flower cookery has been traced back to Roman times, and to the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures. Edible flowers were especially popular in the Victorian era. Today, many restaurant chefs and innovative home cooks garnish dishes with flower blossoms for a touch of elegance. The secret to success when using edible flowers is to keep the dish simple and not add too many other flavors that will over power the delicate taste of the flower.

One very important thing to remember is that not every flower is edible. In fact, sampling some flowers can make you very, very sick. To find out more about adding flowers to your edible table, keep reading.

Do's and Don'ts

Following are some simple guidelines to keep in mind before you eat any type of flower:
*Identify the flower exactly and eat only edible flowers and edible parts of those flowers. If uncertain, consult a good reference book on edible flowers prior to consumption.
*It's very attractive to use flowers on food plates for decoration, but avoid using non-edible flowers this way. Never assume that just because flowers are served with food that they are edible. Many people believe that anything on the plate can be eaten. They may not know if the flower is edible or not and may be afraid to ask.
*Never use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat.
*Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.
*Do not eat flowers picked from the side of the road. Once again, possible herbicide use eliminates these flowers as a possibility for use.
*Introduce flowers into your diet in small quantities one species at a time. Too much of a good thing may cause problems for your digestive system.
*If you have allergies, introduce edible flowers gradually, as they may aggravate some allergies.
*Wash all flowers thoroughly before you eat them.
*Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating. Eat only the flower petals for most flowers.
*Separate the flower petals from the rest of the flower just prior to use to keep wilting to a minimum.

Picking Edible Flowers

Pick your flowers in the morning when their water content is at its highest.

Cleaning Edible Flowers

Shake each flower to dislodge insects hidden in the petal folds. After removing the stamen, wash the flowers under a fine jet of cold water or in a strainer placed in a large bowl of water. Drain and allow to dry on a clean cloth. The flowers will retain their odor and color providing they dry quickly and are not exposed to direct sunlight.

Preserving Edible Flowers

To preserve flowers for eating, put them on moist paper or a damp cloth and place in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Certain species can be preserved in the refrigerator this way, for several hours, and some for as long as 10 days.

If the flowers are limp, they can be revitalized by floating them on icy water for a few moments; don't leave too long or else they will lose some of their flavor.

You can also store the whole flower in a glass of water in the refrigerator overnight.


--Nikki