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Edible flowers

June 10, 1997

Edible flowers

Blossoms can be used in a variety of ways

By KATE COLEMAN

Staff Writer

If the 1960 Doris Day and David Niven comedy, "Please Don't Eat the Daisies," were made today, screenwriters might have to come up with a different title.

With blossoms being used in recipes from appetizers to desserts, eating flowers doesn't seem so funny anymore.

Edible varieties include peppery-tasting nasturtiums and mild onion-flavored chive blossoms, marigolds, chrysanthemums and, yes, daisies. Pansies, violets and rose petals can be candied or crystallized by brushing them with an egg white wash, dipping them in finely granulated sugar and setting them out to dry, according to Trish Knight of The Maples Gourmet Center in Hagerstown.

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Where do you get edible flowers? They should be organic, Knight says.

You can grow edible flowers as you would grow vegetables in your garden. Monte Jones, chef at The Grille at Park Circle in Hagerstown, recommends buying a nasturtium plant at a greenhouse or nursery and hanging it within easy reach of your kitchen.

Edible flowers are available for purchase locally, says Sharon Fay of Dave's Wholesale Produce in Hagerstown. Fay says typical customers are restaurants, but she sometimes gets requests from individuals, most often for pansies or nasturtiums.

"They are really nice for something special," she says.

Pansies are popular for wedding cakes, says Bev Hardy, whose business, Wild Things, grows and supplies edible flowers, fresh-cut herbs and miniature vegetables.

Scented geranium petals - used to line the baking pan - are wonderful in cakes and breads, says Hardy, a caterer who has been a chef in several area restaurants during the past 14 years.

There's an unwritten rule among classical chefs that everything on a plate must be edible, says Bill Lay, a corporate chef for Atlantic Food Services, a Manassas, Va.-based wholesale food company, which recently hosted a product showcase for some of its local customers at Fountain Head Country Club. He was on hand to talk about new products and trends and to demonstrate recipes using edible flowers.

"Americans are reluctant to eat anything unusual," says Lay, who hosts cable TV cooking shows in Montgomery County, Md., and Richmond, Va.

He showed two creations that include edible flowers, "Chef's Ultimate Pan-seared Lamb Loin with Orchids" and "Orange Glazed Shrimp with Chive Flowers." These may not be everyday family fare, but both present easily prepared elegant dinners for special occasions, Lay says.

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