Decorate Your Table and Dishes with Edible Flowers

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flowers_cEdible flowers were popular during the Victorian era, but you don't need a complicated recipe to cook with them. In fact, the simpler, the better.Something as simple as freezing pansies in ice cubes or sprinkling sugar-coated violets on cupcakes create a beautiful finish. Here are some tips of using flowers in dishes.


By Kathryn Rem

"Let the flowers do the talking. Let the flowers make the beauty of the dish," said Carol Schlitt, nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension in Edwardsville.

Something as simple as freezing pansies in ice cubes or sprinkling sugar-coated violets on cupcakes create a beautiful finish.

"It's adds a point of conversation, and it adds good flavor. Most people have basil growing in a pot for pesto, but the flowers can be used, too," she said.

Edible flowers can be purchased in the produce sections of some supermarkets, or they can be freshly picked. Don't use any flowers that have been sprayed with chemicals, including blooms from a florist, and don't eat flowers picked from the side of a road (which easily pick up road dirt). If you're not sure a flower is edible, don't use it.

More advice from Schlitt:

- Eat only the petals; remove the pistils and stamens.

- Store flowers in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible.

- Wash flowers right before using because water can wilt them.

-Test for color-fastness before using so they don't bleed all over a cake's white icing.

- If flowers are used as a garnish, they should be edible.

-Be cautious about serving flowers to children in case they have an allergic reaction.

Schlitt likes to make Hearts and Flowers Salad, a colorful medley of baby field greens, flower petals and thin slices of ham and cheese cut into hearts.

"Pansies, chrysanthemums or dianthus are pretty in the salad. I really like nasturtiums. They have a peppery flavor, a pungency," she said. Flowers from herb plants (dill, oregano, savory, thyme) add an herbal note.

She also likes to make "composed butter." Beat 1/2 cup of finely chopped or shredded flowers into a softened stick of unsalted butter. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and/or shallots. Refrigerate until ready to use on breads and rolls, pancakes and waffles, steaks off the grill, fish, vegetables and pasta.

To decorate cakes or cupcakes, make crystallized flowers: Dip whole flowers or petals in pasteurized egg white (you can use egg-white powder sold at cake decorating stores) and then sprinkle with superfine granulated sugar. Let them dry at least eight hours on wax paper. Store in layers between wax paper in a tightly sealed, airtight container.

Schlitt suggests floating flowers on soups or in punch bowls, sprinkling them on muffins and cupcakes, stuffing blossoms with hors d'oeuvre fillings and garnishing the top of brie or camembert cheese with a cascade of petals.

"For a wedding shower, you can use the colors of the wedding," she added.

Do not eat

Avoid eating these commonly known poisonous plants and flowers: Anemone, autumn crocus, azalea, black locust, bloodroot, boxwood, burning bush, buttercup, butterfly weed, caladium, calla lily, Carolina jasmine, Christmas rose, clematis, daffodil, delphinium, four o'clock, foxglove, gloriosa lily, hyacinth, hydrangea, iris, English ivy, jimson weed, lantana, lily of the valley, mistletoe, morning glory, mountain laurel, nightshade, oleander, periwinkle, philodendron, privet, rhododendron, schefflera, sweet pea, trumpet flower, wisteria.

Guide to tastes

Each flower has a unique flavor. Here's a general guideline:

Sweet: Chamomile, dandelion, daylily, elderberry, linden, okra, red clover, yucca

Spicy-sweet: Anise hyssop, bee balm, dianthus, fennel, pineapple sage

Bitter: Calendula, chicory, chrysanthemum, English daisy, sunflower

Floral: Honeysuckle, jasmine, lavender, lilac, rose, scented geranium, sweet violet

Mint: Johnny-jump-up, mint, pansy

Citrus: Hibiscus, lemon verbena, signet marigold, tuberous begonia.

Extraordinary recipes:

Ham and Flowers Salad

Chicken Flower Soup

Flower Chive Omelet


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Comments 

 
0 #1 Mia 2011-04-02 17:36 Begonias grown primarily for their beautiful foliage belong to the rhizomatous rex group. Hairy, textured leaves arise from their short rhizomes. Foliage color may be purple and green, silver and green, and the distinctive rich chocolate and green of these iron cross begonia. Provide filtered light for glamorous rex begonias all year long. Quote
 

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