Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Taste of Spring – Cooking with Edible Flowers

flowerconfetti

Have you ever eaten a flower?  While most of you may have tasted them in your gourmet salads,  Cathy Wilkinson Barash, author of numerous books on edible flowers, reminded us in her book Edible Flowers: Desserts & Drinks we all probably have enjoyed edible  flowers at some point in our lives without realizing it.  From herbal teas to chinese hot and sour soup, flowers have been used for culinary purposes for thousands of years.

When it comes to edible flower experience, I fall under the category “might have and not realizing it”.  I have been eating them all my life as they feature prominently in many Filipino dishes– banana blossoms, squash blossom, roselle (dried hibiscus) and jasmine flower–to name a few.  But not until a recent Royal Foodie Joust featuring edible flowers as one of the ingredients did my interest got piqued into trying more recipes.

My proposal to Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 for March, welcomes Spring with dishes incorporating these garden gourmets.  Our monthly Pizza at Matt’s Bar get together with friends was the perfect venue to try the recipes. Last night’s “shindig” (as my husband loves to call it!) was a great success, with our guests/friends all game to try the dishes.  When I brought out the plate of stuffed nasturtium blooms and one of our friends asked “Are those flowers?” and excitedly called to the others to try the flower dishes, I knew the night was going to be interesting.

stuffednasturtiumblooms

Coming up with a list of menu was not easy.  Although there were many edible flower recipes available both on the internet and various books, the availability of the specific ingredients was a problem for me.  I live in Lake Tahoe where  Spring comes usually at the end of June if we are lucky.  This means no farmers market until Summer. My local grocery stores do not have fresh edible flowers (one staff does not even know what a zucchini blossom looks like!) and the nearest Wholefoods Market is in Reno which is a good 1 hour and 45 minute drive on a nice sunny day. I had to rely on online resources which means my flowers will not be as fresh as I want it to be even if they do agree to deliver them via courier.

Thankfully, Seabreeze Organic Farms of San Diego, CA delivers organically grown fresh edible flowers overnight.  I got a bag of mixed edible flowers (pictured above) and another bag of nasturtiums which seem to be the most commonly used in dishes.  The bag of mixed flowers yielded many different varieties: calendula (pot marigold), daylilies, borage, johnny jump-ups (viola), rose petals, carnation, etc. more than enough for the recipes I want to try.  Stephenie Caughlin of Seabreeze even shared her recipe for the stuffed nasturtium blossoms, a dish she served at an International Naval Officers Party. Her recipe was a hit so it was one of the dishes I served at our party last night.  Everybody loved it!  I also got organically grown dried edible flowers such as calendula, rose petals, lavender buds and hibiscus from online resources such as Herbs by Diane and Mountain Rose Herbs in case my fresh flowers don’t work out.

When we don’t get enough snow for the winter, we like to do a snow dance to “encourage the gods” to bless us with more.  Maybe the gods will be pleased with my “spring offerings” as a welcome party for Spring’s arrival.  Here’s what I served:

Stuffed Nasturtium Blooms (Nasturtium flowers stuffed with Salmon Cream Cheese Spread served on a bed of Nasturtium Leaves)

Nasturtium Leaves “Dolmas” (Inspired by the Middle Eastern dish Dolmas (or Dolmadas), nasturtium leaves stuffed with ground lamb, rice and pine nuts mixture cooked in lemon garlic sauce)

dolmas1

Mixed Grill with Rose Pepper Rub (Chicken, beef and pork skewers marinated in a dried rose petals and  pepper rub and served with sweet and sour  sauce)

mixedgrill

Rose Pepper Rub

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole peppercorns (black, white, or pink or combination of all)
  • 3/4 cup dried rose petals (organic and pesticide-free)
  • 1/4 cup of rosemary
  • 1/4 cup crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

Combine ingredients and grind in a spice grinder. Store in covered container.

Nasturtium Ravioli Antipasto Salad (Homemade nasturtium ravioli with crabmeat filling, mixed with olives, salami, mozarella cheese, artichokes and tomatoes in lavender honey dressing topped with shredded basil leaves)

nasturtiumantipasto1

Spring Salad with Edible Flower Confetti and Lavender Honey Dressing (Mixed greens with edible flower confetti drizzled with Lavender Honey Dressing)

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Lavender Honey Dressing (adapted from Recipe #173248 from www.Recipezaar.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey (lavender honey preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender (1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seed
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

Blend all ingredients together. Stand for 30 mins to allow flavors to infuse. Stir and adjust salt and pepper again and serve.

Edible Flower Cheese Spread with Calendula Lavash (Softened cream cheese with edible flower confetti, served with homemade softbread Lavash rolled with Marigold (Calendula)  petals)

ediblecheesespread

Edible Flower Cheese Spread

  • 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
  • a handful of fresh edible flowers, chopped
  • fresh flowers for decoration

In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese and flower mixture with a mixer. Line a mold with plastic wrap then line with edible fresh flowers. Add cheese spread. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight to let flavor fully develop. Unmold and peel off plastic wrap.

Rose-Scented Fruit Salad (Seasonal fruits steeped in rose-scented syrup served with fresh rose petals)

Lavender Ricotta Cheesecake ( Sicilian Style) with Crystallized Violets (A crustless cheesecake made with lavender sugar and ricotta cheese served with lavender honey and crystallized violets)

Lavender Mini Madeleines

edibleflowerdessert

Pizza with Nasturtium Blooms and Tomatoes (An almost vegetarian pizza, herbed pizza dough topped with mozarella cheese, tomatoes, nasturtium blooms and leaves)

nasturtiumpizza1

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of dishes I was able to make with just the handful of edible flowers I received. I made several others which didn’t make it to our party last night but made it to our dinner table. (Watch out for dishes that include calendula, hibiscus and rose petals  in my next posts.)  This encouraged me to continue exploring these wonderful ingredients and plan for another Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 in the summer when I have access to farmers market and a wider array of blooms!  Remember:  Please use only edible blooms that you know were grown organically and have not had any pesticides used on them.  DO NOT JUST PICK BLOOMS FROM THE ROADSIDE! If unsure, check reliable sources to confirm that the flowers and/or leaves are edible.

In the meantime, I am planning my summer garden hoping to be able to grow a few edible blooms in my own backyard!

Recipes:

Other Resources:

  • Edible Flowers by Kathy Brown
  • Edible Flowers Desserts and Drinks by Cathy Wilkinson Barash
  • The New Book of Middle Easter Food by Claudia Roden
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» Tangled Noodle said: { Mar 29, 2009 - 06:03 }

This entire dinner is absolutely beautiful and a wonderful showcase for edible flowers. Bravo!

» Manang said: { Mar 29, 2009 - 07:03 }

Wow, that’s a lot of edible flowers! And they are the kinds of flowers that you would love to show off in your garden as well! Now you can show them off in foods as well!

I have only cooked and eaten flowers of squash…haha! Not even pleasing to the eyes…good eating, though.

» Natasha - 5 Star Foodie said: { Mar 30, 2009 - 10:03 }

Wonderful post! All the dishes are so creative and the pictures are gorgeous!

P.S. I saw your post in a middle of the night last night and bookmarked to return to look in more detail :)

» Nate said: { Mar 30, 2009 - 01:03 }

Hello fellow “24′er”.

Congratulations on being selected to do a 24, 24, 24 meal. Your theme is certainly apropos. Thanks for the link to the lavender honey dressing.

I can’t quite tell, but are those borage flowers in the salad?

» virtual chef said: { Mar 30, 2009 - 02:03 }

Hi nate: yes, those little purple flowers in the salad are indeed borage flowers!

» sweetbird said: { Mar 30, 2009 - 03:03 }

This is such a lovely idea. I’ve eaten flowers since I was a child, I come from a long line of foragers – but it’s not very often you see them on menus or in stores, which is a shame.

These are lovely, and congrats on the 24!

» 8michael888 said: { Mar 30, 2009 - 04:03 }

Wow! Cafe Nilson has bloomed! It has bloomed beautifully and creatively too. I knew that the flowers can be used in salads like the ones in Manila but I had no idea a whole menu can be created out from them! Bravo! Just in time for spring too. Can’t wait to try them out!

» Linsey said: { Mar 30, 2009 - 10:03 }

What a pretty meal! I am a huge fan of edible flowers – one of my favorite salads was made with nasturtium green dressing and garnished with those spicy flowers. Lovely!

» GrubsClub said: { Mar 31, 2009 - 09:03 }

Hey Great Post… lovely recipes!!! The photographs are really awesome!!!

» Norerun on Foodbuzz said: { Apr 1, 2009 - 10:04 }

informative post! edible flowers… this is so new to me.

» virtual chef said: { Apr 2, 2009 - 04:04 }

TN: Thanks! I had fun creating the dishes.

Manang: well…i don’t have a garden so i have to be content with the farmer’s market. i couldn’t find squash blossoms here in my stores but i remember my grandmother cooking it a lot, even putting it in dishes like bulanglang.

Natasha: thanks! it’s not as creative as your flower foam (which i still have to try) but it was fun to try recipes using these ingredients. who knew i’d get hooked? :)

nate: thanks for stopping by.

sweetbird: thank you. perhaps you can share some of your flower recipes. i am just being introduced to this and still learning the different edible blooms let alone how to incorporate them in dishes.

8michael888: helloooo! so which flowers should we plant in your new garden (in the new house!) :) maybe ka nestor can identify some of the flowers for me.

Linsey: thank you!hmmm..nasturtium green dressing…how did that taste? sounds wonderful!

GrubsClub: thank you!

Norerun: I, too, was learning while researching these different flowers. who knew there’d be so many that can be eaten!? thanks for stopping by!

» Screamin' Mama said: { Apr 6, 2009 - 06:04 }

Beautiful. I’ve never tried using edible flowers. It’s a nice garnish.

» Pinaygourmand said: { Apr 8, 2009 - 03:04 }

Beautiful, your pictures are awesome, I bet the food tasted just as lovely. Way back I’ve had dishes with edible flowers as a garnish and didn’t eat the flowers. I only realized what I was missing out on when a friend of mind included them in her salad, I fell in love with them and look at them differently now. It is hard to find edible flowers though, they are a treat.

» RC said: { Apr 10, 2009 - 09:04 }

absolutely beautiful! What great ideas.

» virtual chef said: { Apr 11, 2009 - 12:04 }

screamin’ mama: edible flowers are also new to me and i had fun researching and trying recipes. i look forward to summer when i can get a wider variety of edible blooms!

pinaygourmand: i love that name! thanks and yes, i had difficulty looking for fresh edible flowers in my area at this time of the year. i though i’d try growing some in my backyard this summer. thanks for stopping by.

RC: thank you ! glad you stopped by.

» Eric said: { Apr 12, 2009 - 05:04 }

Was never really big on the flower things, but now that I am more focused on learning about food, why not?

» crystal said: { Jul 6, 2009 - 11:07 }

Hi Raquel
Love your edible flowers recipes! I have a lot of lavender in my garden so I will be definitely be trying some of your recipes.
Thanks
Crystal

» annie said: { Aug 31, 2009 - 10:08 }

good day, im annie, HRM college student from De la Salle here at Philippines. can i ask about the name of the one who have a study or discovery of this one? do you have a place here at Philippines? because we urgently need it on our study about the studies relating to edible flowers, thank you very much. im looking forward to read your reply on my mail. God Bless.


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