Enjoy edible beauty
Since the beginning of time flowers have been used to spice up traditional cooking in kitchens all over the world. Blossoms have a lovely way of flavouring any meal, and adding them is a creative way to playfully colour a potentially drab dish.
Imagine, for instance, a boring salad consisting of pale iceberg lettuce, cucumber wheels, onion rings and tomato quarters. Now add a few flower petals of different sizes, flavours and colours and voila, you are safely on the road to creating a tasty and appealing side dish.
Flower petals are commonly used in salads, teas, and as a garnish for desserts. It also inspires creativity in the kitchen and many original cooks use it in surprising ways to bestow ordinary dishes with an artistic uniqueness.
When using petals, artistry in the kitchen is within reach of all those who love cooking: add a tiny bouquet of sugared violets on a birthday cake or knead rosemary flowers into bread dough.
And suddenly the status of “gourmet cook” does not seem so far off.
Just remember to use sparingly as the taste can be quite overwhelming – a little bit goes a long way. It is advisable to use flowers as you would use herbs.
Suddenly the status of ‘gourmet cook’ does not seem so far off
Remember to be cautious
It is wise to make sure that a specific flower is edible before adding it to a dish. Many are poisonous. It is best to stick to those on the list or rather buy edibles from a trustworthy supplier.
Also remember to avoid flowers that could have been sprayed with insecticide, fungicide or herbicide. Never eat those that were purchased from a florist as they are not cultivated for eating and could have been treated with harmful chemicals.
Never pick flowers on roadsides or public parks as they may be polluted, or also treated with chemicals.
It is suggested that pistils and stamens are removed before eating.
Edible blossoms can be used in many creative ways:
• Mix floral tasting blossoms into homemade ice creams and sorbets.
• Pickle nasturtium buds to make ersatz capers.
• Freeze sweet, floral tasting edible flowers in ice cube trays and add to ice-cold beverages. Try mint flowers for mojitos, hibiscus flowers for iced tea or lavender-infused lemonade.
Flower petals are commonly used in salads, teas, and as a garnish for desserts
• Add to salads and stir-fries.
• Use in flavoured oils, vinaigrettes and marinades.
• One of the most popular uses is candied or crystallised flowers, used to decorate cakes and pastries.
• Add edible flowers with lemon, cucumber and mint to a jug of water for a refreshing summer drink.
List of edible flowers
Every single one has a different taste. Some are sugary and floral while others are spicy and herbaceous.
The range of available flowers is surprisingly diverse and many more blossoms than we might think are edible.
To name but a few:
• Herb flowers, like rosemary, basil,
coriander, dill, fennel and rocket
• Rose petals
• Alliums, like chives, leeks and garlic
• Pansies and Johnny-jump-ups
• Citrus, like orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit and kumquat
Beer bread with rosemary and African blue basil blossoms
• 500g self-raising wheat flour
• Salt to taste
• 440ml beer
• Handful African blue basil blossoms
• A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
• Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
• 1 tbs butter
• Coarse salt to taste.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C and grease a large bread pan.
2. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
3. Make a well in the centre and add the beer, stirring until well combined.
4. Add the African blue basil blossoms, rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes and combine.
5. Pour dough into the bread pan and cover with melted butter. Then sprinkle with coarse salt.
6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes until brown and crusty on top.
7. Enjoy warm with butter.
Flowers used for the salad
From left to right: Alyssum, Lemon, Rocket, Rosemary, Pineapple sage, Violet, Dill, Dianthus, Sunflower, Rose, Pansies.