Flowers for the tasting

These posies can go from your garden to your dinner plate

May 19, 2010
  • Rose | Floral Miller said that in colonial times, roses were cultivated for their fragrance. European colonists created rose water in a method similar to brewing tea and used it to flavor "biscuits" (modern-day cookies) and rich cakes.

Surely, flowers look good in the garden, but they might look even better as part of an entree.

The petals of pansies offer a warm greeting to diners who notice them on the faces of homemade ravioli.

Day lilies can be stuffed with bread crumbs and deep-fried in olive oil.

Violet petals can transform a simple syrup into a royal purple sweetener for cakes.

The petals of calendula can be placed on top of crackers covered with cheese spreads.

Wanda Miller, a former coordinator of the Potomac Valley Master Naturalist program - part of the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, in Shepherdstown, W.Va. - said there were instances of flower eating in Europe during the Middle Ages. She said upper-class dinner hosts included edible flowers on their menus to impress discerning guests. Early U.S. settlers used rose and lavender as a sweeteners, said Miller, who recreates food from the French and Indian War era as a hobby.


But before you start plucking petals, make sure you have identified the flower correctly, warned Annette Ipsan, coordinator of Washington County's Master Gardener program for the University of Maryland Extension. Not all flowers are edible, and some may even be toxic, Ipsan warned.

You also want to be sure that the flowers were grown organically because pesticides are also toxic, said Phyllis Heuerman, a Frederick County (Md.) Master Gardener who gives lectures on edible flowers.

Heuerman and Ipsan recommend using Rosalind Creasy's book, "The Edible Flower Garden" (Periplus Editions 1999) as a resource. In the meantime, here are a few tips for cooking with flowers.

- Tiffany Arnold, staff writer

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