Floral Allure

Bring an elegant touch to your home-cooked specialties with Winola Peris’ tips on how to use edible flowers

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Edible flowers are everywhere! Noted on chefs’ grocery lists, lying delicately on those impeccably plated dishes on Masterchef, sold at organic markets and grown in backyard gardens and adding oomph to those Instagram posts that get our tummies rumbling!

While they bring with them an exotic air, edible flowers are often considered to be used in gourmet cuisine only to enhance the plating of a dish. Some even say they are too pretty to eat! But the truth is, edible flowers don’t just complement the look of the meal but also lend a lot to its flavour profile. So when you’re savouring a fancy meal, don’t push those gorgeous blossoms to the side of your plate; for all you know, you’ll be missing out on the star of the dish!

From dainty petals drizzled over milkshakes, smoothies and mocktails to whole flowers lending colour and zest to salads, seafood, meats, sauces, purees and dessert, food enthusiasts and connoisseurs around the world are mesmerised by – and curious about – these delightful treasures. But here’s the deal, edible flowers don’t have to be limited to visits to fine dining restaurants or glossy pictures in magazines. You can, just as well, add a touch of finesse and some sheen to home-cooked delicacies with a colourful and flavourful bloom, or two.

edible resizedHere are a few tips on how to work with edible flowers…

  1. Find out what they taste like. Before using edible flowers in salads and as garnishes for dishes, it is best to know and understand their flavours. Most flowers taste like they smell or have similar flavours like the plant/herb they are harvested from. This way you can make sure that the flower you’re using complements the tang, piquancy or sweetness of the dish.
  2. Make sure the flowers are sans pesticides. Picking any flower from a garden or while walking down a street and thinking of using it while cooking is a complete no-no; you might just poison the food! There is an array of flowers that are grown specifically for eating; unless you are sure that the flower is edible and pesticide-free, don’t use it.
  3. Like all other fresh produce, edible flowers too need to be rinsed thoroughly in order to make them fit for consumption. Be gentle while washing flowers as their petals are delicate and bruise easily.
  4. Always remove the stamens and pistils before adding a flower to a meal. They are known to cause irritation and allergies if consumed.
  5. While some bigger flowers can be stuffed and fried, the tinier, dainty ones are best used as garnishes. Since they have distinct flavours, a few sprigs or petals are enough to get the desired outcome without overpowering other ingredients.
  6. If you wish to mix things up, candying or sugar coating petals and using them in desserts works wonderfully. All you have to do is brush beaten egg white lightly onto the petal and dip in or sprinkle fine sugar over it. Then leave it on a wire rack to dry.
  7. Another fun way to use edible flowers is to freeze them within ice cubes and use those pretty floral ice cubes in drinks.

What’s not to love about how beautiful and tempting edible flowers make our meals? Head over to an organic market or plant some edible flora in your garden and enjoy the bursts of colour and flavour they bring to your plate!

Know your edible flowers

Borage: Borage blossoms are blue and beautiful and taste like cucumbers – fresh, fun and enlivening.

Nasturtium: Bright and summery, nasturtiums come in gorgeous yellow and crimson hues. They are packed with a vibrant pungency that only comes through when the initial sweetness fades.

Rose: When pulled away from the stem, rose petals have a strong yet sweetly perfumed flavour that is perfect for drinks, jams and dessert.

Pansy: They are purple, white, yellow and orange and sometimes a blend of two or more of these colours. Their sweetness makes them perfect for using in desserts and they are sometimes used to tint food naturally.

Lavender: Sweet and spicy, these mauve jewels go well with both savoury and sweet dishes.

Mustard:  Much like the mustard seed, these little yellow beauties add some welcome bitterness and punch to a meal.

Basil: Basil flowers come in a variety of cool colours – from white to baby pink and plum. They taste just like the leaves but are milder and soothing.

Arugula: These flowers are generally white with dark purple streaky centres; like the leaves they lend a hot peppery kick to a dish.