It's the peak of bloom season and your flowers look good enough to eat, right? Well, lots of them are. Many flowers can serve double duty — in the garden and in your kitchen. They will make not only your garden beautiful, but add color and flavor to your dishes as well. Here are some tips and yummy recipes to try.
First of all, make sure your flowers are grown as your vegetables are: no nasty chemicals to control pests or diseases. Organic practices are safest, and make sure to wash everything first, just as you do with vegetables. Make sure plants harvested in the wild are away from roads and spray drift.
Sam Pennington says one of his favorite spring teas is delicious and very good for you. The ingredients can be gathered fresh locally, but if that's not possible, shop herb stores for dried ingredients and use half the amounts given here.
Spring Gathering Tea
4 tablespoons nettle tops
2 tablespoons alfalfa buds and new growth (about top 6 inches)
2 tablespoons young dandelion leaves and flowers
2 tablespoons hawthorn flowers and new leaves
2 tablespoons wild rose buds and new leaves
2 tablespoons lemon balm new leaves
2 tablespoons elderberry flowers
pinch of ginger
Place all in gallon jar, fill with good quality well water, filtered or bottled water. Cover, let stand in a sunny window at least a week. Strain and add sweetener to taste.
Nasturtiums are probably the most familiar edible flowers. They add bright yellow and orange colors and a tangy flavor to salads and vegetable dishes. The leaves are also edible, so add the pretty variegated foliage of 'Alaska.' Pansy, viola, pinks, dianthus and daylily flowers are also beautiful and delicious in salads.
Fresh herbs, mints and flowers are often used in pastas, dressings and butters, but how about cookies? Jim and Dotti Becker, owners of Goodwin Creek Gardens in Williams, shared one of their favorite lavender recipes.
Lavender Madeline Cookies
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers (only the individual buds)
2 drops pure food-grade lavender essential oil
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
In food processor with chopping blade, process granulated sugar, flowers and essential oil until flowers are finely ground. Put in a zip-lock bag and let stand for 24 hours. The next day heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a Madeline cookie pan with oil or melted butter (spray each time you bake). In large bowl with electric mixer at high speed, beat eggs with lavender/sugar mixture and vanilla until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). At medium speed, gradually beat in 3/4 cup melted butter. With wire whisk, fold in flour. Spoon a scant tablespoon of batter into each mold. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Dust with confectioner's sugar just before serving. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
"Certain kinds of lavenders have different flavors," say the Beckers. They suggest the English lavenders are best for cooking sweet things such as cakes, cookies and teas. Others have a stronger, more "camphorous" flavor, which are better suited to barbecuing large meats.
Sam Pennington, owner of Pennington Farms in Grants Pass, uses currant and elderberry flowers and wild roses in his homemade jams and teas. Roses make great jam with both petals and hips. Pennington's nutritious rose hip jam combines with our bountiful Oregon berries for the following recipe:
6 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen mixed berries (strawberry, blueberry, blackberry)
2 cups dried wild rose hips with seeds removed
8 cups sugar
1 cup pectin
Submerge hips in water and bring to boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Put berries in jam pot, bring to boil, add pectin. After pectin becomes active (a couple of minutes), stir in sugar. Heat all together to a boil, then place in sterilized jars. Place jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Next, enjoy jam all year!
This is just the tip of the iceberg for edible flowers. Once you've begun, you will find a whole world of flowers you can grow for beauty and for taste. Your flower garden will never be the same!