On the menu today, a salad of crudités with nasturtiums, fritters of zucchini flowers, salmon tartare with pansies, lavender ice cream ... Edible flowers are the latest chic in terms of culinary presentation. This little flowery touch that makes the difference on the plate is only starting to interest the general public, while until now, edible flowers were mainly used by great chefs.
Which edible flowers to pick for the plate?
There are many edible flowers, but not all of them are interesting in taste - they can be bland. Most of them can be used to season the dish they accompany, because their taste can be very pronounced, peppery, even spicy, or so flavored and sweet. The most well-known and used are nasturtium, carnation and marigold, pansy, primrose, marigold, rose, marigold, dandelion… The flowers of aromatic plants such as those of the chives, mint or coriander (the taste of aromatic flowers is even more intense than the leaves usually consumed), vegetable flowers (zucchini, squash, pumpkin, fennel, cabbage, leek ...), and also the monard, poppy, poppy, linden flowers, violet, lavender, amaranth, hollyhock, wolf's mouth, sunflower petals, mimosa, passionflower, chrysanthemum, borage, mauve, daisy, fuchsia, dahlia… and many more (find a complete list of edible flowers in the book Let's cook the flowers by Pierrette Nardo, editions Terre Vivante - a very complete work presenting many original and appetizing recipes)! The flowers can have different flavors: the nasturtium and the marigold have for example a peppery taste, the dandelion is rather bitter, while the monard, the rose, the tulip, the honeysuckle (attention, all the varieties are not edible, some are even toxic) and the violet is fragrant, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter; the carnation, the daisy, the daisy and the hollyhock, for example, are softer, rather used for the decoration of the plate; maritime mertensia and borage are known for their iodized flavor. The agastache has an anise-like taste, the flavor of the chive flowers is reminiscent of that of the onion ... This is enough to enhance many culinary creations!
Edible flowers: find out before you start
With some plants, only the petals are eaten. Sometimes, flowers and leaves are consumed ... Before you start using them in your dishes, do a detailed research on each of them, leaf through specialized books, learn as much as possible before you start. Because some are laxative, diuretic, addictive ... and others can be quite toxic, such as thrush, hydrangea, wisteria, narcissus, buttercup, Madagascar jasmine, honeysuckle hedges, Etruscan honeysuckle . As with mushrooms, a theoretical initiation upstream is essential!
An imperative for edible flowers: zero pesticides
One last tip before enjoying it as these flowers deserve: for your good health and that of your guests, the flowers consumed must not have undergone any treatment, be 100% organic. Your phytosanitary approach must therefore be well controlled, and above all never use flowers from a florist. When you buy them in store or on the Internet, find out well before about their origin and their (non) treatments.
Some recipes with edible flowers
Edible flowers go well with salads, fish and meat, cold or hot dishes, as well as desserts. Each flower first embellishes the plate with its natural beauty. Play with colors and styles to decorate your dishes. Some can then actually be incorporated into the preparation and sometimes cooked. The simplest ways to prepare them are in seasoning, in salad, in infusion or crystallized - mainly for roses, violets, pansies, marigolds, nasturtiums, agastache, chamomile, hollyhocks ... In presentation , simply placed on the piece of meat or fish, or on the edge of the plate, pansy, monard, tulip, chive flower, carnation, phlox, primrose, nasturtium, marigold, the rose, the poppy do wonders… A flower will often suffice per plate, even a few petals, place them at the last minute before serving. Finally, you can cook the nasturtium, daylily, vegetable flowers, monard, lavender, marigold, incorporated into the dishes. Anne Gardon proposes for example in her work Gourmet in the garden (Guy Saint Jean editions), trout fillets with pink tulip leaf removal, chunks of chive flower cheese, stuffed daylilies. Jekka Mc Vicar offers in his Large Book of Edible Flowers (Guy Saint Jean editions), a raspberry and elderflower tart, a Thai chicken curry with citrus flowers ... And Pierrette Nardo offers among other unexpected recipes in his book Let's cook the flowers , Terre Vivante editions, poultry with flower jelly, risotto with begonias…
Edible flowers easy to grow
Fresh flowers in season (or dry season) are now relatively easily found in high-end, organic grocery stores, on sale on specialized websites, and sometimes even on the market. But they remain so simple to cultivate, in the ground or in a planter on a small balcony, in seedlings or in seedlings, that it is better to try it… they will thus be much less expensive. Most are annual spring and summer flowers, which are sown between March and May, for rapid flowering and harvest until September or even October. Do not hesitate to mix them in the vegetable patch instead of isolating them, flowers and vegetables go well together! Harvest them in the morning, and consume them quickly, ideally the same day. Some flowers are picked before opening, like the daylily for example: pick and place the buttons in the refrigerator, then immerse them in hot water the next day to open and cook them.
Want to test the edible flowers? Some very simple ideas
Do you want to test? Pick some violets, clean them delicately and make them ice cubes: ultra romantic and decorative effect during the next aperitif! Another idea for mixing flowers and color gradations: butters, salts and flower sugars. Pre-dry whole flowers, or even petals and leaves, and store them in airtight jars for use out of season, and even incorporate them into sauces, cakes, creams…
To read : - Let's cook the flowers , by Pierre Nardo (Editions Terre Vivante), - Gourmet in the garden , by Anne Gardon (Editions Guy Saint Jean), - The Big Book of Edible Flowers , by Jekka McVicar (Editions Guy Saint Jean).
Thanks : - Emilia OIivero, artistic director of Florajet, - Valérie Brault from Algoflash, - Michel Déramé, member of the committee of Floralies Internationales, Nantes from 8 to 18 May 2014.