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.
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)
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)
Rose Pepper Rub
- 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
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)
Spring Salad with Edible Flower Confetti and Lavender Honey Dressing (Mixed greens with edible flower confetti drizzled with Lavender Honey Dressing)
Lavender Honey Dressing (adapted from Recipe #173248 from www.Recipezaar.com)
- 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
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)
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.
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
Pizza with Nasturtium Blooms and Tomatoes (An almost vegetarian pizza, herbed pizza dough topped with mozarella cheese, tomatoes, nasturtium blooms and leaves)
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!
- Stuffed Nasturtium Blooms
- Nasturtium Leaves Dolma
- Mixed Grill with Rose Pepper Rub
- Nasturtium Ravioli Antipasto Salad
- Spring Salad with Edible Flower Confetti and Lavender Honey Dressing
- Edible Flower Cheese Spread with Calendula Lavash
- Rose-Scented Fruit Salad
- Lavender Ricotta Cheesecake with Crystallized Violets
- Lavender Mini Madeleines
- Pizza with Nasturtium Blooms and Tomatoes (a staple dish at Pizza at Matt’s Bar parties!)
- Edible Flowers by Kathy Brown
- Edible Flowers Desserts and Drinks by Cathy Wilkinson Barash
- The New Book of Middle Easter Food by Claudia Roden