THOSE UNEXPECTED EDIBLES
MANY BUDS AND BLOSSOMS ADD COLOR AND FLAVOR TO MEALS
ANNA MAY KINNEY
Last week I listed some common and often deadly garden plants that we seldom think of as
dangerous, this week Id like to bring your attention to plants looked at only for
their beauty, ones youd never think were edible.
While living in Montreal, I was friends with a delightful Chinese family. They would often
invite me into their home. The wife would teach me how to prepare dishes from their
homeland and in turn, I would teach her bread, cake and pie making. (Ovens are rare in
China and baked good are almost unheard of, except for the western shops in the major
Here is where I first learned that flowers could be eaten. During the winter, they served
a thick, sweet chrysanthemum tea, and in the summer they gathered lily blossoms,
chrysanthemums and nasturtiums, some were eaten fresh in salads and some were dried for
the following winter.
Many years later, I have come to learn how smart my friends were, flower buds and blossoms
can be loaded with vitamins. For example, nasturtiums are a great source of
vitamins D, A and C ( having 10 times the C as lettuce leaves).
Just think of all the colorful free food you are overlooking, those bright yellow or
orange male squash blossoms have no better purpose in life than to go into a salad. Their
delicate flavor adds just the right zest, and their sunshiny color is good for the soul.
The next time youre annoyed with all those Johnny-jump-ups, cut off a couple of
handfuls for your next picnic. Other flowers that you might enjoy trying are pansies,
roses, nasturtiums, lavender, calendula, scented geraniums, dandelions, marigolds, and
dont forget the chrysanthemums.
Another lady I used to know, would pick a variety of pansies. Make a thick sugar syrup and
gently place them in it, one at a time. Then with extreme care, shes remove each
delicate flower and set it on wax paper to dry. After they dried overnight, shed
place them in an airtight container.
Whenever she baked a cake for a special occasion, it was covered with these delicate sugar
coated pansies, a beautiful sight.
In every culture, in every part of the world, people have always looked at more than the
beauty of flowers. There are so many uses, all it takes is a bit of imagination and they
can be added to most anything.
When making your own herb vinegar, try placing a few pansy blossoms in with the spices, it
adds color and makes an attractive gift. Any edible flower can be used when making your
salad dressing, or just toss a handful or two of mixed flowers right into the salad bowl.
Another friend taught me how delicious those squash or day lily blossoms can be when
dipped in batter and fried. Flowers are not only good in cold dishes; they add lots
when used in soups, stews and pasta dishes.
Flowers should be picked right after the dew has evaporated, before they have had the
chance to heat up. Its best to pick them the day you plan on serving them and choose
only healthy blooms, nothing on the way out.
If you have the same type of flower growing two or three places in your garden, taste each
set of flowers, you may find that they do not taste anything like each other. Flowers tend
to change flavor according to the soil and growing conditions. So taste them each and
every time before picking a whole bunch for a salad, even a couple of weeks of dry or wet
weather could make a difference in the flavor.
Most of the time, it is the petals that taste the best. Discard the other flower parts
inside the petals. With violets, honeysuckle, clover and Johnny-jump-ups you can eat
the entire flower, but watch out for a bitter white portion where the petals attach to the
flower when you choose Dianthus, marigolds, English daisies, roses and chrysanthemums,
just remove it.
Dont do as I did one year, I picked a variety of flower blossoms and was gingerly
making a salad, had rinsed everything off well under running water and felt it was clean,
but when I looked down into my calendar full of blossoms it was covered with dozens of
tiny spiders, apparently they had just hatched.
Being an environmentalist first, I proceeded out the door, found a safe cool spot under a
tree, spread out my lunch (the spiders little home) and left to gather more flowers.
After you have washed your blossoms well, place them between layers of paper towel, set
paper towel and all in a plastic bag and refrigerate until dinnertime.
There is one thing to think about before eating any bud or blossom, you dont want to
ingest a bunch of pesticides or herbicides along with your petals, so make sure you gather
flowers only from areas that you know have not been sprayed and eating flowers is not
always something everyone can do, people with asthma, hay fever and allergies should talk
to their doctor before eating any variety of flower.
Also no matter how lovely a flower appears to be, remember that not all flowers are safe
to eat, make sure you really know what you are eating and always make it clear to young
children that yes we do eat some flowers but ONLY the ones Mommy or Daddy picks are safe.
Children spend most of their time playing pretend and they copy most everything they see
us do, we wouldnt want them to run around eating every pretty flower they see, it
could be dangerous.