In Chinese there is a saying, “You eat first with your eyes, then your nose, then your mouth.” A study in the late 1970s showed when we find food more appealing, not only do we enjoy it more, we also absorb more nutrients from it. While studying at the Natural Gourmet, I learned that subsequent studies have validated this finding. The thought of making the food you prepare look and taste amazing is very appealing to me. If you are going to take the time to make meals for your family, it takes only seconds to give them a little “wow factor” and make them beautiful. Using edible flowers in the summer is a fantastic way to make your meals vibrant!
My kids love eating the Johnny-jump-ups they find throughout our garden. They are also delighted to see nasturtiums and other edible flowers on their plate when we dine at the Train Station Inn. Because of their enjoyment of these edible beauties, and my love of making our meals beautiful, last summer I decided to buy a few edible planters from Nature’s Nook & Kranny so that we could enjoy the flowers of summer not just in the garden but also on our plate!
While the whimsical side of me is interested in the beauty of a dish, my scientific brain is always curious about the nutritious benefits of the food we consume. As I rolled my sleeves up to investigate the benefits of edible flowers, I was delighted to discover there are a great number of things that those unassuming little blossoms on common plants can do for you! I learned that violets can be consumed cooked or raw and can apparently help with alleviating pain, curing headaches, and combating esophageal issues like coughs. Nasturtium flowers have been considered an herb and a vegetable and their leaves are rich in vitamin C and also contain a sulfur compound that has antibacterial properties. Borage flowers are a good source of fatty acids and can apparently regulate metabolic and hormonal systems, as well as combat depression. Rose hips (the base of the flower) have been used to combat indigestion, constipation, urinary problems, and even arthritis; the petals of the flower are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Teas brewed with rose petals have been known to relieve stress and tension headaches. The list goes on! I called attention to these lovelies since many of us have these in our own backyard, and if you don’t I’m quite certain you’ll be able to find someone in your area who does.
So now the fun begins, if you are interested in adding a little pizzazz to your plate, here are a few easy suggestions on how you can add these edible flowers to your summer menu. Time to raid the garden (or your neighbour’s), otherwise most farmers’ markets will carry transplants, you just have to ensure that pesticides were not used. Once you’ve picked your pretty posies it’s time to clean and store. Be sure to shake the flowers to remove any insects or excess dirt. Then gently wash in a large bowl of cold water; drain. Let your flowers air dry on a paper towel lined tray. It’s always best to use immediately or store in an airtight container lined with damp paper towels in the refrigerator for up to one week. After you’ve selected your flowers of the day, it’s time to put them to work creating masterpieces on your plate or in your drinks, if that tickles your fancy. Earlier, I called out some flowers that packed a nutritional punch and have incredible health benefits to boot, so I thought I might give you a few suggestions on how to use them. Rather than giving you five recipes, I thought it’d be fun to put them into a prix fix menu to stimulate your imagination on how you can use flowers in each and every course! Bon Appetit.
Cocktail ~ Lemonade Vodka with Violets
Salad ~ Summer Salad with Edible Flowers (recipe provided below)
Main ~ Open-faced Smoked Salmon Sandwiches. Sprouted grain toast, dill mayo, smoked salmon, garnished with microgreens and violas
Dessert ~ Floral Shortbread Cookies or Vanilla Ice Cream with Rose Pedals drizzled with Chocolate
SUMMER SALAD WITH EDIBLE FLOWERS
Yield: serves 6
- 5-ounce pack of baby spring greens mix
- 1/4 small red onion
- Two to five different varieties of edible flowers of your choice. (I’ve chosen nasturtiums and geranium blossoms)
- 1/4 cup dressing of your choice (use a light vinaigrette type, nothing thick or creamy that will weigh down your salad; I’ll be using lemon poppy seed vinaigrette).
Place your bounty of baby greens into a bowl. Peel and slice the onion into paper thin rounds. The easiest way to do this is with a mandoline slicer. If you don’t have one, just get them as thin as you can. Separate the rings and add to the greens. Top with your favourite edible flowers to create your masterpiece. By nature, this is a very delicate salad so do not pre-dress, instead, allow each guest to drizzle his or her dressing upon serving.