Flowers have been a big part of special occasions for a long time, so when they actually started turning up on food plates, people gushed, took a couple of photos for the ‘Gram, and pushed them aside before tucking in.
But we’re in 2018 now and flowers have gone beyond being merely pretty things. As one of the biggest wellness trends this year, this new superfood is fast gaining traction for the unusual flavours and surprising quality of nutrition. Doesn’t hurt that they make a case for photogenic bites with their vibrant colours and sometimes, otherworldly shapes.
Edible flowers are now found in restaurants all around the world, as well as magazines and cookbooks, but most people still regard them as mere garnishes. Rarely are they appreciated for their flavours and nutritional value.
However, the culinary use of flowers dates back thousands of years to the ancient empires of the Chinese, Greek and Romans. Many cultures also use flowers in traditional dishes, such as squash blossoms in Italian food and rose petals in Indian tea.
So the question then is where do you begin? As pretty as they may be, they can be an intimidating choice of ingredients for beginners. But before you resign to the fact that they’re only good for fine dining restaurants, here’s a simple guide to getting that floral dose effortlessly at home.
Besides, this guide might come in handy should you find yourself stranded in a forest.
Like other seasonal produce, the time of the year is important. Spring and summer are your best bets for obvious reasons, besides the fact that foods in these months should be exciting, light and vital. Plus points for being able to fit in perfectly with their more well-eaten leaf or root counterparts on a plate.
Besides delivering a spicy and nutty punch (like their leaves), arugula flowers also serve up a hit of vitamin A, C, K, and potassium. The pretty white or purple florals from the basil plant will enhance your dish with a refreshing hint of lemon and mint, while the borage, nasturtium and pea flowers give a cucumber, peppery and sweet grassy flavour respectively. Chamomile has a sweet, slight apple taste, while the flowers of coriander has a taste similar to its herb. All this abundance of flavour is accompanied by a potent cocktail of vitamins, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and flavonoids.
While some flowers look good enough to eat, there are some that should remain in a vase — nightshades are a good example. This deadly group of florals include irises, calla lilies (pictured), sweet peas and potato flowers, all of which are toxic to humans.
While some work best as garnishes, others do equally well when tossed within a salad for a splash of colour and taste. They can also be used in flavoured oils, vinaigrettes, and jellies. Sweet-fragranced petals such as rose, chamomile, and lavender are best incorporated into drinks like tea or cocktails to add subtle flavour. To further your Instagram cause, freeze whole small flowers into ice cubes for a pretty addition to your drinks.