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How many times have you had the same leafy green salad? Maybe you tossed in a few vegetables, maybe a fancy dressing, maybe some mushrooms or fruit. But even so, you look at it and it’s the same as always.
A salad is a salad, right?
Nope. Not if you grow edible flowers that you can sprinkle onto your salad to add some much needed eye-candy, as well as a surprising spark of life, not even to mention that some flowers can be downright tasty.
But before you head out to harvest your blooms you do need to know that not all flowers are edible and some can be downright deadly. For example, the traditional garden perennial monkshood is also known as aconite. That’s right, aconite the deadly poison that Richter’s Herb Catalogue notes has been used to poison arrow tips.
So, first thing’s first, know what you’re harvesting. Never assume you know what a plant is. Get a plant identification book or ask someone in the know. Then get a second opinion. Also avoid all flowers that have been treated with pesticides and herbicides and be cautious if you have allergies. Before using flowers, gently rinse away dirt and any hiding bugs.
Some of the best edible flowers include:
• Johnny jump ups (Viola tricolor). These common purple, lavender, and yellow violets grow with abandon, seeding themselves enthusiastically from year to year, hence the name. Not only are these cheerful flowers gorgeous in a salad, they taste like a refreshing mild wintergreen. Use in small quantities.
• Pansies (Viola species). Like Johnny jump ups, some pansies can have a wintergreen flavour. Beautiful as a salad garnish.
• Calendula (Calendula officinalis). Often called pot marigold, these orange and yellow daisy-like flowers are not the common bedding-out marigolds. Calendula foliage has a fragrance that is my favourite summertime scent, resiny and bright. To add to salads, simply pluck the petals from the heads and sprinkle liberally.
• Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus and minus). Yes, gorgeous and edible. These showy flowers will add a dash of peppery green flavour to your salad.
• Borage (Borago officinalis). These periwinkle and sapphire blue flowers need to be plucked from their fibrous base before being tossed onto the salad. The plant itself has a cucumbery flavour, the flowers, only very mildly so.
• Chives, garden and garlic (Allium schoenoprasum and tuberosum). With both varieties it’s better to harvest the flowers before the seed is produced. For best effects, break the flower heads apart and sprinkle the tiny blossoms onto your salad.
• Daylily (Hemerocallis species). Gorgeous and edible. Cut away the base of the blossom and add the colourful petals to your salad. Consider dipping the whole bud or just-opened flower in batter then deep-frying. This method is also a great way to eat zucchini and dandelion blossoms.
• Herb flowers. Herb flowers tend to be tiny and delicate. Good herb blossom choices for salads include rosemary, coriander, thyme, sage, mint, fennel, and dill. A fine culinary delight.
And for dessert:
• Lavender (Lavendula species) and Rose (Rosa species). Use lavender petals sparingly because these tiny flowers pack a potent lavender punch. Both lavender and rose petals work well with fruit salads. You might also consider sprinkling over ice cream for a sweet treat.
Simple, easy, gorgeous. Edible flowers are a pleasing way to dress up your salad and make your supper a joyful experience.
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Photo Credit: Dez Pain
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