HUERFANO — The garden flowering plants that struggled through the drought are now profuse with blooms in the rain. Along with the bounty in the vegetable garden, how about adding blossoms to your cuisine?
Before you pick, know which are safe, edible flowers: All culinary herbs, Johnny-jump-up, Bachelor’s button, Nasturtium, Begonia, Pansy, Calendula, Peas, Carnation, Rose, Chrysanthemum, Scented geranium (leaves and flowers), English daisy, Snapdragon, Fuchsia, Tulip, Hollyhock, Squash blossoms, Honeysuckle, Viola/violet.
If you have any doubt about whether a flower is edible, do not eat it! Here is a partial list of toxic flowers:, Buttercup, Lily of the valley, Columbine, Milkweed, Daffodil, Monkshood, Delphinium, Nightshades (potato, tomato, eggplant flowers), Foxglove, Poinsettia, Goldenrod, Poppy, Iris, Tansy, Lily (Lilium spp.), Wisteria.
I cannot emphasize enough that you and your children know the difference between safe and unsafe plants to eat. Be sure that the flowers you use in cookery are pesticide-free.
The best time to pick edible flowers is in the early morning when the blossoms are fresh and moist. The stems and flower parts (stamen, sepal, and calyx) may be bitter, so use the flower petals only. (Pansies and violas/violets can be used whole.) If necessary, wash the petals in cool water and blot dry. Put into a plastic container and store in the refrigerator until use. Fresh flowers can be kept this way up to three days; or freeze small flowers in ice cubes for summer drinks.
Now that you have captured these beauties, how can you use them? A scattering of petals on salads looks like sparkling gems. How about flower syrups (anise hyssop, sugar, and water, for instance), aspic (try nasturtiums and lemon gelatin), toppings for sorbet or ice cream, herb flower butters, or as decorations on your relish and cheese trays?
Here’s a recipe for an old-fashioned favorite, candied violets: In a small bowl, beat one egg white until it starts to foam. Paint the petals with egg white using a small brush. Using superfine sugar (also called caster sugar), sprinkle the violets with white or colored sugar (or dip the flowers in the sugar). Let the coated violets dry on waxed paper. You can store these dried, fragile creations in a covered container in a dark, cool place up to a month.