Friday, September 2, 2011

F-F-F-Friday - Edible flowers

Welcome to the first of my guests posts for the F-F-F-Friday feature. I'm so excited about having a guest blogger here today and I hope it's the start of many others to come.

I want to say a BIG thank you to Heike Hagenguth, who has so kindly agreed to guest on the blog today. Heike is here to tell us about Edible Flowers. So without any further ado, I'm going to let you hear from Heike ...

Bouquet of Edible Flowers by Heike Hagenguth

The art of creating culinary sensations from fragrant flowers and aromatic herbs has always been a special highlight of many oriental cuisines. In some Asian countries flowers not only play a decorative part in food presentation, but also enrich recipes with their flavors and seasoning characters. In Europe, cooking with flowers was popular until the Middle Ages but was then slowly forgotten when new spices and flavors arrived from the Orient.

Nowadays chefs inspired by Asian cuisine and its decorative food presentation have revived this beautiful and extraordinary style of cooking, making use of the richness and variety of flowers and herbs growing throughout the four seasons, like Mulberry, Chives, Wine, Roses, Zucchini, Basil, Gladiolus, Cress, Carnation, Pumpkin, Lavender, Marjoram, Sunflower, Chrysanthemum, Oregano, Dahlia, Mint, Cranes Bill and many more. The aromas of these flowers vary in a wide range from nut-like to sweet, which can lead to interesting combinations of flavors in the food.

When you integrate flowers in your cooking it is very important to only use flowers that have not been treated with pesticides. As most of flowers are grown for decoration purposes, it might take some time to find a vegetable vendor or flower producer who is able to deliver seasonal flowers that didn't undergo chemical treatment. Never use flowers from the local flower shop, but look for a reliable source to ensure high quality. One should be aware that some persons could be allergic to certain flowers and should be prepared to inform guests about all the ingredients in the dish. Most of the edible flowers have a positive digestive and health effect. Especially those with yellow, red and orange petals work as antioxidants fighting free radicals because of their colour-giving substances. Yet the quantities of these substances are so small that the flowers cannot be considered as anti-cancer foods.

From appetizer to dessert a whole menu can be created with flowers: iced petals and buds can be used for decorating elegant wedding cakes, while ice cubes with frozen petals, small buds or leaves inside add a Mediterranean touch to cool summer drinks. Sugar can be scented with roses or mint to add a special flavor to beverages and pastries. Rose butter and dips with flowers not only delight the eye but also refine the taste to a fragrant gourmet experience. Salads with petals are colorful and offer a new experience as the fragrance of the petals mixes with the aroma of the different ingredients and the vinegar. Fried Zucchini and Mulberry flowers are not only decorative on every buffet but are also a crispy delicacy and can be served with other appetizers. And a swimming rose in a glass of Sharbat makes a marriage proposal even more special.

Flowers aromatize vinegar, oil, juices, wine and water. They can be used as an ingredient to sauces, soups and creams to enhance almost any food. Chopped, they can be added to vinaigrette and spreads. Chopped and mixed with oil, some flowers release their pigments and can be used to color foods e.g., rice or pastries, instead of the more expensive saffron. Some essences like rose water, lavender water or tulip essences can be bought ready-made. Always check the label to see if the ingredients are all natural, or if artificial flavors and colors were added.

Edible flowers have a delicate texture and a fine scent. In order to maintain this quality and keep the appearance of the petals, flowers are best kept in the refrigerator and only prepared and added to the food prior to serving. When using the petals only, they are best plucked directly before use. Whole buds can be kept fresh in a bowl of water. Before use, the pedicel and all green sepals must be removed. Stamen and pistil taste bitter in some flowers; therefore it is always better to remove them as well. Shaking the flowers carefully upside-down removes hidden insects. Flowers can also be washed in cold water to clean them. A short shower with boiling water enhances the taste of bitter-herb flowers like Chrysanthemum.

Here are some RECIPES for various edible flowers:

RECIPE for Rose Butter

  • 8 tsp of clean, chopped rose petals
  • 250 g Soft butter

  • Mix and stir thoroughly.
  • Cover and keep at room temperature for some hours, then fill into an air tight container; keep in the fridge for another two days before use.

Note: Can be used for cakes or as a spread on white bread. Good for two weeks.

RECIPE for Iced Flowers

  • 1 Egg white
  • 100 g Fine sugar
  • Buds of flowers, e.g. roses, jasmine, violets

  • Stir egg white, use a brush with natural hair to cover flowers with a thin layer of egg white, sprinkle flowers with sugar and shake carefully to remove extra quantities.
  • Dry for 2-3 days on a grill in the warm kitchen, then store in an air-tight container.
  • Separate layers with wax paper.

Note: Can be used for decoration of cakes and desserts.

RECIPE for Flower Ice Cubes

  • Traditional ice cube tray
  • Water
  • Small flower buds, petals, leaves

  • Put one piece into each space on the ice cube tray.
  • Deep freeze and serve with cold beverages.

RECIPE for Cress Salad

Ingredients for salad:
  • 50 g Radicchio
  • ½ Frisée Salad
  • Nasturtium (cress) leaves and flowers
  • 8 Chopped mushrooms
  • 20 g Pine seeds

Ingredients for marinade:
  • 2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Dash Maple Syrup
  • Salt
  • Pepper

  • Wash and mix radicchio, frisée, cress leaves and flowers, and mushrooms.
  • Roast pine seeds and spread over the salad.
  • Mix the marinade thoroughly and spread.
  • Decorate with a large Nasturtium flower.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this post as much as I have. For those of you who are interested in finding out more about edible flowers, Heike has also provided us with some reading resources.

Please join me in thanking Heike for visiting with us today.

Also, I am always looking for contributors to the blog. Anyone interested in guest blogging for me, do leave a comment with your email address and I'll follow up with you. The topics are very open and it does not necessarily have to be about cooking or food. I would welcome your contributions.

Further Reading:
Edible Flowers - From Garden to Palate, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash
The Edible Flower Garden, by Rosalind Creasy
Edible Flowers - A Kitchen Companion With Recipes, by Kitty Morse
Edible Flowers - Desserts and Drinks, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash
Edible Flowers, by Cathy Brown

© This work is copyrighted to Heike Hagenguth, Invest-Ex and Destiny’s Fortunes Pty Ltd

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