From the vase to the kitchen, flowers will never cease to stun you

Flowers have been eaten for thousands of years. They have been used in many in Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines and are known to have been cooked by the ancient Romans.

When used with care, flowers can add a new dimension to recipes both for flavour and looks. However, although many flowers are edible, some of them are poisonous, it’s best to stick to the one’s you know are harmless.

Once naturally dry, edible flowers can also can be fully dried or frozen, but the texture will change, so they are best used for infusions or when cooked dishes in their freshest form.

General uses for edible flowers

As an edible garnish or decoration: Edible flowers can be used to garnish salads, desserts and flavouring drinks. Crystallized flowers can be used to decorate cakes and confectionary.

Adding Colour and flavour: Marigolds (calendula) in particular can add both colour and flavour to dishes using eggs, rice and milk.

Soak the petals in warm milk (twice the amount of milk to petals). This can then be used in cakes, breads and desserts to liven up the colour.

Many flowers can be used to flavour oils, dressings and marinades and in salads. Stuffing and cooking Courgette flowers are excellent when stuffed as are gladioli and day lily (Hemerocallis) flowers, although the latter two are used more for their look rather than taste.

Courgette flowers are also excellent batter and deep fried in Japanese cookery.

Prepare and Store Flowers For Eating

It’s best to pick flowers just before you want to use them and when they have freshly opened up in the morning, then wash them in cold water.

Adding a little salt to the water will help get rid of insects.

Once well washed, carefully pat dry on kitchen paper or allow them dry naturally at room temperature.

They can then be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag until ready to use but preferably not longer than 3 days.

A ready reckoner for edible flowers and their uses:

Alliums (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives)-All parts of these plants are edible.

Garlic - Milder flavour than garlic cloves. Suitable for salads

Banana blossoms - Also know as banana hearts. Banana blossoms can be cooked or eaten raw.

Basil - A milder flavour than the leaves. Suitable for salads and pasta dishes.

Chrysanthemums - Slightly bitter, peppery flavour. Blanch petals before use.

Coriander also known as Cilantro tastes like its leaves. Suitable for salads, vegetables, pulses, grains.

Jasmine - Very fragrant. Suitable for tea and scenting rice dishes.

Mint - Minty flavour. Use as the herb particularly in marinades and dressings. Use sparingly.

Roses - All roses are edible. Suitable for garnishing desserts and salads and excellent in syrups and jellies.

Squash - Many Squash and courgette flowers are edible. Remove the pistols before using. Excellent when deep fried in a light batter.

Avoid

• Never use non-edible flowers as a garnish as they may get eaten by accident.

• People who suffer from allergies should be on alert for possible allergic reaction.

• Use flowers sparingly in your recipes, as too much can lead to digestive problems.

• Never use flowers bought from a florist or other outlet as these will probably have been sprayed with pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals

• Avoid using flowers picked from the roadside as these may have been sprayed subjected to high carbon monoxide levels.

• Do not use lilies from the Lillium family as these are poisonous.

COURTESY TAJ BANJARA

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