For those who are old enough to remember, naturalist Euell Gibbons advocated living off the land. When he became a spokesman for a nature-based breakfast cereal, he asked the question "Ever eat a pine tree?", and then explained that "Many parts are edible."
Turns out when it comes to what is grown in the garden, fruits and vegetables aren't nature's only edible bounty. Flowers can also be consumed.
Ardmore Master Gardener Pat Neasbitt provides the lowdown on edible flowers.
Using edible flowers
There's a wide variety of flowers that can safely be consumed. Most flowers taste better when used raw, but others, such as okra, squash and daylilies, are delicious cooked as well. When cooking flowers or adding them to a finished dish, remember that most flowers are delicate, and excessive heat will cause them to lose their flavor. Daylilies and squash blossoms are a delicacy stuffed or dipped in batter and fried.
Edible flowers make a wonderful garnish on salads, floated in soups, at the side of a plate or on desserts. You can "sugar" edible flowers to decorate pastries by painting them with egg white and sprinkling with fine sugar.
Warnings About Using Flowers
First, don't use flowers that aren't edible on or near food. If you aren't sure if a flower is edible, don't use it. People will assume that a flower is edible if it is on a plate.
Always know where your flowers are coming from. Growing them yourself is the best possible way to get your flowers because you know that nothing has been sprayed on them. Flowers can be difficult to clean, so this is really the best option.
If you can't grow your own edible flowers or just need to buy some extras, make sure they were organically grown and had no pesticides used on them.
Cleaning Edible Flowers
Before using any edible flowers, shake them gently while holding them upside down to make sure there are no hitchhikers in them. Remove the stamen and rinse them very gently in a sink or bowl of plain water. Place on paper towels to dry quickly and retain flavor.
Edible flowers can be stored in the refrigerator in tightly sealed containers or sealable bags. You can also keep flowers on their stems stored in the refrigerator in a jar of water.
If your flowers have wilted before you want to use them, place them in a bowl of ice water for a few seconds to refresh them.