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Cooking with wild flowers may seem like the latest trend, but in reality people have cooked and eaten them for thousands of years. Despite this, most people are unfamiliar with edible flowers. They are not only unaccustomed to seeing them on their plate, but are also not used to using them in the dishes that they create. Flowers are found in salads, as garnish, in teas, soups, main dishes, and even in desserts. In some dishes, the flower may even be the primary ingredient. Not only are wildflowers potentially edible, but certain vegetables, herbs, and fruit flowers are, also. For example, the blossom of a zucchini is a common vegetable flower that is edible and frequently used by both professional and amateur chefs. The key to using wild flowers as a source of food is to know what flowers are edible and what flowers are toxic.
Because not all flowers are safe to eat, people must exercise extreme caution to ensure that they are only eating flowers that are safe for human consumption. For safety's sake never guess what flowers are edible. One definite way to ensure this is to purchase a reference book. A book on edible flowers and plants should include images and accurate descriptions, and will serve as a fool-proof way to ensure that a flower is safe to eat. The Internet is another reference source. Conducting a search for "toxic flowers," or "inedible flowers," or "poisonous flowers" will uncover a number of reliable resources. Likewise, a search for "edible wild flowers" is also a way to check the safety of flowers. A person can easily print out a list of edible flowers to keep as a reference. People can also ensure that flowers are safe by using their list of edible flowers to purchase seeds that they can plant and create their own garden. When ready to cook using flowers they can then use the flowers that they have personally grown. Keep in mind that there are things that should never be done when selecting or looking for flowers to cook with. One should never pick wildflowers from the roadside, even if they are known as edible wild flowers or are listed as safe. Car exhaust, pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals are potentially tainting these flowers, making them unacceptable for consumption. Chemicals may also be on flowers that are found in nurseries, making them a bad choice for cooking and eating as well. In addition, not all parts of edible flowers are always safe to eat. Verify which parts are okay to eat before actually eating them. If not positive about which part of the flower is edible, only eat the petals and discard the stamen and pistils.
There are many benefits to cooking with edible wild flowers. Not only do they make dishes more colorful and attractive, they also impart their own unique flavors. Health wise, flowers are low in fat and carbohydrates and depending on the flower used, they may contribute vitamins and other nutrients, including vitamins A and C or zinc. To get the most flavor and nutritional benefit from using edible flowers, it is important to harvest, store, and use them correctly. Carefully pick the flowers on the day that they are to be used to ensure freshness. This should be done in the morning while temperatures are still cool. Look for flowers that are open and healthy in appearance. Freshly picked flowers should then be stored in a plastic bag or a plastic container until it is ready to be used. Place a paper towel that has been dampened inside either the bag or container. The flowers should be set on top of the paper towel before they are stored in the refrigerator. The wet towel will help create a high humidity environment that will prevent wilting of the flowers. When choosing between a plastic bag and container, the ideal choice is a container if available as it reduces the likelihood of accidentally crushing the flowers within. When preparing and using the edible flowers, people should keep in mind that using too many of the flowers at once may cause digestive or allergy problems. Instead, people should proceed with caution when introducing flowers into their diet and onto their plates.
Picking and Preparing Flowers
Recipes with Edible Flowers
Written By Ava Rose.