How To Cook With Edible Flowers And Herbs

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Cooking with edible flowers and herbs can be a wonderful new way to add flavor and interest to your favorite recipes, and to branch out to try new recipes.

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A World of Flavor

There are many edible plants with wonderful tastes and visual appeal. Taking the time to research what is edible and which recipes it can be used in will not only add variety to your meals, but also phytonutrients (plant nutrients), vitamins and minerals. 

In terms of herbs, just take a look at any spice rack in a supermarket, and chances are you will see both old favorites, like oregano and basil, with new, intriguing herbs lie borage and cilantro. 

Most herbs can be grown at home in containers or in the garden. They will be cheaper than store bought, and delightful-tasting when used fresh. 

You can also dry your harvested herbs, which will be a lot less expensive than commercial brands. Best of all, your own herbs will be organic and pesticide-free.

Precautions To Take

Those who have seasonal allergies might react to eating edible flowers, so they should exercise caution. Watch out for trouble breathing or a swollen tongue. 

In terms of preparation, in most cases the pollen from the flowers should be removed, to reduce allergens and improve the flavor overall.

As with most plants, edible flowers can have various digestive effects – including a laxative one. Gas and upset stomach can also occur when trying new foods. Eat small amounts first to see how well the flowers agree with you.

Traditional Recipes

Our ancestors wasted nothing. They started as hunter-gatherers, and through a process of elimination, discovered which flowers and herbs could be eaten. 

This knowledge got passed down through the centuries, and eventually made it into the earliest cookbooks. Many of these are free online, so you can discover popular dishes from the Middle Ages, or how Shakespeare would have dined.

A World of Recipes

There is also a world of cuisines to explore, each with their own herb combinations. Italian food, Indian, Thai, Chinese… learning about the herbs and spices used can help you add variety to your weekly meals, without expensive restaurants or takeaway.

If you love to share your recipes with other food lovers, you can submit recipes online and get cooking tips in a women-only recipe sharing community. 

Soups and Stews

Soups and stews are an excellent way to cook for two reasons. The first is that everything goes into one pot to simmer, for easy cooking and clean-up. The second is that everything is cooked together, so no nutrition is lost. 

Soups and stews tend to also be very hearty and filling. They are ideal during chilly weather. Chances are you won’t overeat either, because the food will be so flavorful and satisfying.

The herbs you use will depend on the main ingredients in the soup. For lamb, seasonings like sage, rosemary and thyme will enhance the food. Just add a range of vegetables such as peas and carrots, and some wedges of potato for a complete meal.

Sauces

One of the most popular sauces is Italian tomato sauce to pour over pasta. You can make your own in minutes with some fresh tomatoes that have been cored and quartered, and some oregano, basil and a dash of olive oil. 

Some people lightly sauté the herbs in the olive oil to release more of the flavor. Other sauces can liven up chicken, fish and beef. It is all a question of learning which herbs you prefer, which can be a fun journey of exploration.

Garnishes and Decoration

Edible flowers and herbs have also been used for centuries to make food more attractive, in addition to adding flavor if the items used are intended to be eaten. 

You can add flowers to ice cubes to add beauty and flavor to a pitcher of drinks, or a platter of cheese. Your salads can take on new and vibrant colors with the help of nasturtiums and other edible flowers.

Desserts

Edible flowers and some herbs were also the foundation of the desserts our ancestors loved. Rose petals and rose water were highly prized and used in many different recipes. 

Violets and other flowers were candied and eaten as is, or used to decorate cakes and puddings. Jellies were also very popular, and were both tasty and nutritious. 

Different Ways to Use Edible Flowers

Edible flowers work great in a range of recipes, from soups and stews to salads. But their vivid colors and pretty appearance can also help you create a whole new level of interest and flavor as you produce more exotic-looking dishes, or use the flowers as vibrant garnishes. Here are a few ideas for using your edible flowers.

Ice Cubes

Place a flower or two in each compartment of an ice cube tray. Add water and freeze. Add to clear drinks. Also uses fresh flowers as garnish. Depending on what flowers you choose, they can add a lemony tang, taste of cucumber, and more.

Popsicles

Add flowers to your popsicle containers, fill with liquid, add the stick and freeze. You can have a colorful array of sunny-looking popsicles laden with flowers and interesting tastes, such as lemon mint or lavender.

Lollipops

You can make your own lollipops with sugar syrup and sticks. Try to find one perfect flower per pop. You can then arrange them on a stand and dazzle people with the colors.

Candied Petals

Candied violets have been used for centuries, both as a sweet treat and as an elegant way to decorate cakes. Create a box of your own to pass around when guests come, or give as gifts.

Jellies/Turkish Delight

Clear gelatin and some sugar can be the foundation of vividly-colored jellied candies. You can also add rosewater and rose petals if you like, to make your own Turkish delight. 

Make a tray of it, chill well, and cut into small squares. Toss the squares in some powdered sugar to stop them sticking together.

Cake Decorations

Fresh or dried edible flowers can dress up any cake. You can also use candied flowers. Some people use butter cream frosting and place the flowers around the top and sides of the cake. 

Other cooks use fondant icing, a soft sugar paste that you roll out until it is large enough to cover the cake you wish to frost. Consider scattering flowers and petals onto the fondant as you give it a last roll out before you place it on top of the cake.

Use edible flowers as charming cupcake toppers. You can also make frosting from the flowers, such as rose.

Cookie

Make your usual sugar cookie dough. Roll it out, cut into cookies, and roll a fresh flower into the top of each cookie. Use a variety of blossoms and you will be able to create a stunning-looking cookie platter.

Garnish for Serving Platters

Garnish can really make your platters stand out, such as cheese and fruit or dessert platters.

Cocktails

Some liquors can be enhanced with flowers, such as adding them to a bottle of vodka. You can also create various syrups out of edible flowers to add color, flavor and consistency to cocktails and mocktails (you can use seltzer instead of alcohol in most cases).

Teas

Some edible flowers and botanicals like hibiscus and rose hip are actually the basis for most commercial herbal teas on the market, so you can have fun experimenting with different blends. The most basic herbal tea can be made with fresh or dried chamomile flowers. It is pretty, and good for the digestion.

Yogurt Parfaits

Layer the flowers with layers of yogurt, and perhaps some granola or nuts, for a light, refreshing dessert or breakfast. 

Use these and your own ideas to brighten up your dishes with edible flowers.

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