Flowers good enough to eat

Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014

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A number of wonderful plants have flowers that are quite delicious.

The secret to success when using edible flowers is to keep the dish simple. Do not add too many other flavours that will overpower the delicate taste of the flower.

You can easily toss edible flowers into a salad, sprinkle them over pasta, add to hot or cold herbal or fruit teas, and even put them in your sandwiches.

Borage: A herb with pretty star-shaped blue flowers. Taste similar to cucumber, fresh cool flavour, not overpowering. You can crystallise the flowers with sugar and use them as cake decorations.

Calendula: Use flower petals to add a saffron colour, and light tangy flavour to rice and fish.

Chive flowers: A delicate onion flavour. Use the young pink flowers once they open, in salads and cold soups.

Courgette flowers: Bright, sunny yellow flowers. A soft peppery taste, with a hint of melon. Add to pasta as a garnish, or fill with stuffing and deep fry in a light batter.

Day lilies: A range of colours from crisp white to deep purples. Wonderful nutty flavour, with a hint of mint. Add the flowers to salads, rip the petals apart. Chop the unopened flower buds into salads and stir fries, or pasta. You can use in desserts as the base to sorbets.

Hollyhock flowers: Use petals to add colour to desserts, remove stigma and use only the petals. Blend into fruit salads for contrasting colours.

Hyssop: Toss flowers or stems of flowers into salads.

Lavender: Rich lavender purple flowers of the English lavender are hard to beat. A rich and heady taste, add a little to baking such as shortbread, biscuits and muffins. The flavour is very strong, so be careful.

Nasturtiums: Flowers range from bright oranges to clean reds and yellows. A classic peppery taste, with a hint of spice. Add to omelettes, sandwiches, salads and pastas.

Marigolds: Brilliant yellows and vibrant orange flowers. An Indonesian flavour similar to saffron. Add to savoury dishes such as risottos, pastas and scrambled eggs.

Pelargonium: Classic pink and purple flowers are very attractive. The taste is a crisp pine-like flavour. Add to jams and jellies for flavour. Use in tossed salads.

Rosemary: Clean, pale and dark blue flowers, very aromatic. A soft rosemary flavour similar to the leaves. Toss in to a fresh salad at the last minute. Pound with sugar and add to a cream or fruit puree.

Rose petals: A rainbow of colours can be used. Choose smaller flowers. The petals tend not to bruise as easily. A soft, delicate musky flavour, similar to vanilla. Add to jams and jellies or for cake decorations.

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Sunflowers: Use raw buds in salads, or steam and serve like globe artichokes.

Violas: Edible mix, these dainty flowers look lovely on any plate. A fresh carrot-type flavour with a rich aroma. Use in salads, desserts and fresh fruit salads.

I often use flowers in my cooking now, and my visitors are now starting to enjoy them in their own homes as well. However, I must confess that my father still pushes them to the side of his plate. (Oh well, I don't suppose I can convert every farmer in the country.)

To make floral ice cubes, simply place some edible flowers in some small sherry or shot glasses and fill with water and freeze.

Place a cube or two into your pre-dinner drinks at your next party.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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