Explore the versatility of edible flowers by using them in a salad or to make a tasty drink

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Floral flavors sometimes get a bad rap.

Sure, some desserts, like lavender shortbread cookies, may taste vaguely like dish soap and perfume, but foodies and gourmands have enjoyed flowers in foods for centuries.

The Romans valued a plant called Silphium. Silphium flowers oozed a sweet, succulent sap and had famous medical properties.

Likewise, the tangy and refreshing hibiscus flowers have been used for centuries in Indian, African, Mexican and South American cuisine.

Even rigid, rule-abiding Victorians understood that rosewater and candied violets added romance to their cakes and confections.

Of course, there are safety rules.

The most obvious? Only eat flowers that are safe to eat. Usually this means using a guide or learning from an expert.

Once you know a few safe edible flowers, you need to be wary of where you pick them. Avoid picking on the side of the road and don’t buy your edible flowers from most florists, nurseries or garden centers – these flowers have probably been treated with pesticides which are not food safe.

You are looking for fully open flowers and it is best to pick them in the morning or late at night.

Finally, wild foods and any foods that are relatively new to your digestive system can wreak havoc and act as a diuretic.

Go slowly.

Here are some fun recipe ideas for wild and cultivated flowers:

Rose Iced Tea

It’s a favorite summer recipe. It is easy to do ! Gently tug on the petals of the flower head. You will want to sort out the bugs and then rinse the petals under cold running water.

That’s enough for a pitcher

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons fresh rose petals
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice

Directions:

Place your rose petals in a teapot. Add the vanilla to the water and bring to a boil. Pour boiling water over the rose petals.

Do not boil the rose petals.

Stir in the honey and lemon, cover and let steep in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Strain and serve with ice for a fresh, summery tea.

Red clover is one of the most easily recognizable foods, making it a great starting point for new foragers.  Contributed/Alex Wilkie - Contributed/Alex Wilkie
Red clover is one of the most easily recognizable foods, making it a great starting point for new foragers. Contributed/Alex Wilkie – Contributed/Alex Wilkie

red clover tea

Red clover is one of the most easily recognizable foods, making it a great starting point for new foragers. It’s also very plentiful and almost in season—we’re only weeks away from fields full of red clover.

You can toss the flower heads into a salad, but red clover is better in tea. Pat them dry and mix them with fresh mint, chamomile, dried lavender and a little catnip for a relaxing bedtime tea.

It makes enough for six to 12 cups of tea, depending on the strength of the tea.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup wild rose petals
  • ½ cup red clover flower heads
  • ¼ cup dried mint, chamomile or pineapple
  • ¼ cup dried lavender

Directions:

Dehydrating flower petals for tea is quite simple. Check to make sure

there are no insects and rinse the ingredients with cold water. Let the petals dry naturally or dab with a paper towel.

Then dehydrate in the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 200°F and lay the petals flat.

Do not overload or have overlapping petals. Distribute them all.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and check every 10 minutes to see if they are crispy to the touch!

Every oven is different, so keep an eye on things!

Now take them out and mix them with other dried herbal tea ingredients.

To make tea, all you need to do is boil water and pour it over the bagged leaves and petals. Sweeten as desired.

Lilac and champagne vinegar

Lilacs add a spicy sweetness to vinegar. Use this infused vinegar in salads and pickles, but it sings when you brine chicken in it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of champagne vinegar
  • 1 cup lilac flowers
  • A grain of black pepper

Directions:

As usual, check your flowers for insects. Rinse them, dry them and remove them from the stems.

Once you’ve gone through these steps, place it in your jar and pour champagne vinegar over it – keep it for six days in the fridge.

Then filter your flowers with cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

It should be a gorgeous purple color.

Store in the refrigerator and use within three months.


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