They say, there are flowers for every occasion. Cooking is one of them. Surprised? Well, don’t be.
These are called Edible Flowers.
Edible flowers are the ones which are used for giving an appeal to entire plate of food with their colors and diversity. These are of various varieties originating from different flower families and are safe to consume. With their strong, unique and subtle flavors, they are of much importance when it comes to the culinary world. Many such flowers have umpteen uses and are leveraged to make preserves, spreads, butters, vinegar, marinades and dressings. Some of these flowers also carry medicinal characteristics.
Flowers are also consumed for subsistence. Some flowers that are technically edible can be far from palatable. For best flavour, flowers should be fresh and harvested early in the day.
Wilted and faded flowers and the unopened buds of most species can be distasteful, often bitter. Many flowers can be eaten as it is but there are some with bitter parts such as the stamens and stems.
At Grand Hyatt, Goa, we use edible flowers in varieties such as Lavender flowers, Nasturtiums, Begonia flowers, Hadga flowers, Beet cress flowers, Borage flowers, Onion flowers etc.
We also make use of Arugula flowers from Offering farms, Pune. Offering Farms is specially designed farm for organic produce to offer culinary enigma in India its different touch and attachment. I must acknowledge the passion with which farm owner Amrita gets the best produce in her farm designed as per my request.
And as Indian Winters are round the corner, we are planning to inculcate many more organic produce like Golden beets, Yellow & Purple cauliflower, Heirloom tomatoes, Golden cherries, Artichokes and many more.
Here, let me explain you two of my recipes that have edible flowers as their main ingredients & how they really enhance up the flavours to take the essence of the dishes one notch up–
Also known as English lavender, common lavender, true lavender
Flavour: Floral and sweet
Aromatic lavender has long been used as an ingredient in perfumes and potpourri, but the perennial also has magical effects as a culinary herb. Remove the buds from the stem and use sparingly in desserts such as cookies or in a fruit preserve. A small amount of lavender is an essential ingredient in herbs de Provence, a blend of dried basil, thyme, savory and fennel, typically used flavoring savory foods such as lamb, pork, or white beans.
Honey Lavender Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup mild honey
2 tablespoons edible lavender flowers
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
Special equipment: a candy or instant-read thermometer; an ice cream maker
Bring cream, half-and-half, honey, and lavender flowers just to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, then remove pan from heat. Let steep, covered, 30 minutes.
Pour cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard lavender flowers. Return mixture to cleaned saucepan and heat over moderate heat until hot.
Whisk together eggs and salt in a large bowl, then add 1 cup hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Pour into remaining hot cream mixture in saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat back of spoon and registers 170 to 175°F on thermometer, about 5 minutes (do not let boil).
Pour custard through sieve into cleaned bowl and cool completely, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, until cold, at least for 3 hours
Freeze custard in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.
Also known as Indian cress.
Colors: Yellow, orange, crimson, white, or peach
With its bold colors and spicy flavor, it’s hard to ignore nasturtium that originated in South America. With a flavor akin to watercress, the pungent-flavored blossoms and green lily pad–shaped leaves can be used in salads and are said to have exceptional antioxidant qualities. Excellent served in a salad, or mixed with softened butter to melt over steamed vegetables or fish.
Baby Greens with Roasted Beets and Potatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons tarragon white-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium beets (1 lb with greens; 14 oz without greens), stems trimmed to 2 inches)
1 lb small new potatoes (about 1 inch in diameter) or fingerlings (1 to 1 1/2 inches long), scrubbed well
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 oz micro greens such as baby Bibb, red-leaf, and oak-leaf lettuces and baby arugula, or Mesclun (about 10 cups)
4 cups baby spinach (3 oz)
1/3 cup lovage leaves, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup fresh chervil and/or dill leaves
1/3 cup fresh tarragon leaves
20 unsprayed organic nasturtium blossoms
Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
Roast beets and potatoes:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
Wrap beets individually in foil and roast on a baking sheet in upper third of oven until tender, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Once beets have roasted for 30 minutes, toss potatoes with oil and salt in a small baking pan and roast in lower third of oven, shaking pan occasionally, until potatoes are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Carefully unwrap beets and cool slightly, then slip off and discard skins.
Cut beets into 1/3-inch dice and put in a large salad bowl. Cut potatoes into 1/3-inch-thick slices and add to beets along with all greens and herbs. Add vinaigrette and toss gently to coat.
Sprinkle blossoms on top and serve immediately.
Try these recipes sometime when you are in a mood to experiment, I’m sure you’ll relish the results!