Flowers can be food!
Its not quite the season for flowers around here, but its coming. And that means its time to bring out and dust off all the spring green and early summer foraging and herbal stuff (plus, I’m cleaning out my shoe box of recipes and other cooking info)! For this week’s Food for Friday, I though we could talk about eating flowers.
When we think of culinary herbs, we don’t often think of flowers. But…nasturtium, rose, chamomile, redbud, zucchini or squash blossoms, snapdragon, violets, yarrow, calendula, lavender, citrus blossoms, hibiscus, clover, bee balm, borage, chive blossoms, honeysuckle, jasmine, daylily, geranium, lilac, mint flowers, and pansy (to name a few, here’s some more) can all be used in food. Be careful of allergies when using flowers in food, and be sure to leave poisonous flowers alone!
- Drying–Hang freshly harvested (best time is usually early in the morning before full sun) by the stem in a dry dark location of room temperature (somewhere between 60-75 degrees F) with good circulation OR lie on mesh screen in a dust free space that meets the same criteria as for hanging. Once dry, store whole, crumpled or pulverized in airtight glass containers in the dark. When using in a recipe calling for fresh, use half. Drying does alter flavor somewhat.
- Jellying–Steep 1 c of packed flowers into water in a covered glass or ceramic container for 1-2 days and strain the infusion into a 6 qt nonreactive Dutch oven or preserving pan. Add 1/2 c of herb or flower vinegar and 3 1/2 c sugar and dissolve the sugar. Bring the solution to a rolling boil and add 1 pouch of liquid pectin (or 1 pkg of dry). Boil for about a minute (unless pectin instructions say otherwise) and remove from heat. Skim off any foam and then pour into sterilized half pint jars, leaving about 1/8 in head space. Put on lids and process for 5 min in a boiling water bath and turn upside down for 5 min to test lid seal. Flower jellies can be used as glazes on meats, fish, veggies and toast.
- Flowered Butter–Finely chop flowers and mix into softened butter (1 c flowers: 1 lb butter ratio), cover and allow to muddle at room temperature for a few hours, and then refrigerate for several days before serving. Flower butter will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge or up to 6 months in the freezer. It can be used in recipes for cakes or cookies, or as a spread.
- Infused Honey–Add 1/2 to 1 cup of flowers per 1 lb jar of honey, cover loosely and place in a half pan of gently boiling water. Remove from heat and rest in water for around 10 minutes–never heat to more than 140 degrees F. Once cooled to room temperature, close tightly and let set for a week before using. Strain if desired. This can be added to regular or flowered butter to make honey butter.
- Flowered Sugar–Pound 2 c granulated sugar with 1/2-1 cup of flower petals in a mortar (or run thru a food processor) and place in a clean jar and cover for about a week. Sift (optional) and store in an airtight container. Sprinkle as a tasty topping.
- Syrup–Boil together water, sugar and flower petals (1:3:1) for about 10 minutes, or until thick like a syrup. Strain through cheesecloth into a clean glass jar. Store in fridge for several weeks.
- Vodka (for drinking)–Infuse 1/2 c flowers into 2 c good vodka for at least 48 hours at room temperature. Strain and store in freezer.
These methods are pretty standard for a number of leaf herbs as well, and can be altered as such. Something to remember–not all flowers will do well in all preparations. Also, flowers can be added into salads, used as garnish, fried into fritters like the dandelions, and used in a number of other ways. Even better, flowers in food is a great way to incorporate a little bit of herb magic into the kitchen.