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An Edible Garden: Cooking and Baking with Flowers

An Edible Garden: Cooking and Baking with Flowers

Flowers have been used in culinary delicacies around the world for thousands of years, though it’s only in recent years that their popularity in the kitchen has been rekindled. Some of the flowers listed below are ornamental ones that are found in many gardens, so you won’t have too much difficulty finding them, but be sure to only eat those that you have grown yourself or that you’ve purchased from a source that you can trust (like an organic farmer’s market). Blooms that you can buy from a florist shop will have most likely been treated with pesticides and other toxic chemicals, and you really don’t want to ingest any of that. Additionally, don’t eat flowers that you’ve picked from the side of the road, as they’ve been exposed to a plethora of poisons via car exhaust fumes, spills, etc.

Flower omelette

    When it comes to incorporating flowers into various dishes, keep in mind that their flavours can range in taste from aromatic and sweet to spicy and earthy, so it’s important to taste them before deciding how you’re going to use them. It’s also good to ensure that the flowers you use are indeed edible ones, as there are some lookalikes out there that can make you quite ill if you eat them by mistake.

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    Squash/Zucchini Blossoms

    Zucchini Blossom

      If you’ve never tried the stuffed, cooked blossoms of squash or zucchini, you’ve missed out on something rather exquisite: the flowers themselves have a beautiful, delicate flavour, and they hold fillings such as herbed rice, cheese and nuts, and ground meat exceptionally well. Once stuffed, the blossoms can be cooked in a variety of different ways, but frying them seems to yield the tastiest results.

      Marigolds (Calendula)

      Spicy and velvety, marigold petals were treasured as edible delicacies by the ancient Greeks, and are still used throughout India and the Middle East in a variety of different dishes. Fresh, they’re a gorgeous addition to salads, and they can be dried and used in drinks, soups, and when dried, as a baking spice with cinnamon and cloves. Brewed into a strong tea, they can colour rice dishes in lieu of saffron, but be sure to remove the white “heels” of the petals before using them as they can add an unpleasant note to your dish.

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      Violets, Violas, and Pansies

      Candied Violet Truffles

        With their distinctive floral scent and delicate flavour, violets and pansies have been used in a variety of dishes since the early medieval period. Use candied violets as decorations for cupcakes, petit-fours, and other desserts, or use them raw in herb/flower salads; the raw blossoms go well with chervil and endives, as well as cress, arugula, pears, and raspberries.

        Rose Petals

        All rose petals are edible, but the more fragrant the flower, the more flavour it will have. Dark red roses are particularly stunning, and can be used to dramatic effect when creating desserts. You can create your own rose water by steeping a few handfuls of petals in a clean jar of water for a few weeks and then use that to flavour desserts like crème brûlée, ice cream, jams, etc. You can also make candied rose petals with a bit of egg white and sugar, and then arrange them on cakes and tarts—just remember to remove the white “butts” that attach to the center, as they’re terribly bitter.

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        Nasturtiums

        Originally from Peru, these vibrant flowers were brought to Europe by the conquistadores back in the 1500s, and they’ve been used to brighten up both gardens and dishes ever since. You can shred the young leaves and stems to add to dishes; they have a sharpness similar to that of watercress. The flowers, though still spicy, have a sweeter, more delicate flavour, and look spectacular in leafy green salads.

        Dandelions

        Dandelions

          Though these plants seem to be the bane of lawn enthusiasts everywhere, dandelions are actually very useful little plants: they’re used as a cleansing tea, the young leaves can be used as a great, slightly bitter salad green, and the cheerful yellow blooms are startlingly delicious when cooked. Dandelion fritters are easy to make and beyond delicious, and you can enjoy them either savoury or sweet, dipped into either sour cream, mustard, or honey.

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          Sunflowers

          It’s likely that just about everyone has tasted sunflower seeds at some point, but before the flower heads transform into the dark, seed-laden moony faces most of us are familiar with, they’re edible in a variety of different ways. The petals can be used as a sweet/bitter additive to salads, and before it even unfolds into a petaled blossom, a sunflower bud can be steamed: it tastes much like an artichoke heart when cooked.

          Remember that you can also use the flowering parts of many herbs in your cooking and baking: mint, dill, fennel, borage, chive, thyme, and rosemary flowers have a similar flavour to the fully-grown plant, only slightly more delicate, and can be used in the same way that you use the regular herb; just prettier versions thereof.

          Consider breaking up chive blossom heads and tossing them into potato salad or egg dishes to add a spicy kick along with splashes of vibrant purple, and rosemary flowers are also great with potatoes. Borage flowers can be candied and used as decorations for cupcakes, while lavender blossoms—though a bit perfume-y and an acquired taste—can be used to make lavender sugar for desserts and teas. To make it (or any edible flower sugar) blend 1 cup of white, granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon of dried flowers. Leave the mixture in a dry, warm spot for a couple of weeks, then put through a sieve to get most of the petals out.

          Borage

            If you’re planning a garden this year, consider adding a few of these edible blooms along with the other plants you have in mind; not only will they add stunning colour and fragrance to your space, they’re also a rather exotic food source that you can pluck and enjoy all summer long.

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            Catherine Winter

            Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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            Last Updated on January 11, 2021

            11 Hidden Benefits of Using Oil Diffusers

            11 Hidden Benefits of Using Oil Diffusers

            Affordable, relaxing, and healthy, oil diffusers are gaining popularity with people everywhere due to their extensive benefits. Oil diffusers work through the simple process of oil diffusion, which uses heat to turn oil into a vapor that is then spread around a living space. Diffused oil can have several relaxation and health-related benefits, including safe scent-dispersion, mosquito and mold defense, stress relief, and more!

            Read on for 11 hidden benefits of using oil diffusers.

            1. Safe Scents That Make Sense

            Unlike candles or air fresheners, oil diffusers release cleansing molecules into your air that work to purify it, not overload it with unhealthy chemicals. Electronic diffusers also do not pose the fire risk that candles do. Plus, they contain the added feature of interchangeability, which means you change oil types for different scents and health benefits.

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            2. Stress Relief

            Several lab studies have confirmed that diffusing essential oils like lavender have been shown to reduce stress and help relieve anxiety in medical patients. Preliminary studies have also shown that oil diffusers can help alleviate symptoms of depression.

            3. Improved Sleep

            Diffused oil has relaxing properties that can help people of all ages fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly. Electronic diffusers not only have the option to mix and match different oil blends (Try a lavender, Bulgarian rose, and Roman chamomile blend to help with insomnia), they also run at a gentle hum that helps relax an agitated mind. Many also come with an auto shut-off feature to help conserve oils once you have fallen asleep.

            4. Appetite Control

            Much like gum, oil diffusers can help stimulate the senses in a way that works to curb appetite. New research has shown that diffused peppermint oil can help curb appetite by inducing a satiety response within the body. Diffused peppermint oil has also been shown to increase energy.

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            5. Bacteria and Mold Killing

            When essential oils are diffused in the air, they break down free radicals that contribute to the growth of harmful bacteria. Eucalyptus, thyme, and tea tree oils are especially good for this purpose. Diffused oil is also highly effective when it comes to combating fungal yeast threats, as the oil help makes the air inhospitable for yeasts such as mold. Pine and red thyme essential oils are best for combating mold.

            6. Decongestion and Mucus Control

            Ever tried Vick’s Vapo-Rub? Its decongesting powers come from active ingredients made from the eucalyptus tree. In principle, oil diffusers work the same way as Vapo-Rub, except they diffuse their decongesting vapor all around the room, not just on your chest or neck. Oil diffusers have been known to cure pneumonia in lab mice.

            7. Mosquito Repellant

            Nobody likes mosquitoes — but when the trade-off means using repellants full of DEET, a toxic chemical that can be especially harmful to children, mosquito control can often seem like a lose-lose. However, scientists have shown that oil diffusers can be used as a safe and highly effective mosquito repellant. Studies have shown that a diffused oil mixture containing clove essential oil and lemongrass essential oil repelled one type of Zika-carrying mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, at a rate of 100%.

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            8. Pain Relief

            While applying oils directly to areas of your body may be the most effective way to alleviate pain, diffusing essential oils can also be an effective means of pain relief. When we inhale healthy essential oils, they enter our blood stream and can help internally relieve persistent pain from headaches, overworked muscles, and sore joints.

            9. The New Anti-Viral

            Research into the anti-viral effects of oil diffusion is now just gaining steam. A recent study showed that star anise essential oil was proven in medical experiments to destroy the herpes simplex virus in contained areas at a rate of 99%. Another study showed the popular DoTerra oil blend OnGuard to have highly-effective influenza-combating powers.

            10. Improved Cognitive Function

            Diffusing essential oils has also been shown to improve cognitive function. Many essential oils have adaptogenic qualities, which can work twofold in soothing us when we’re stressed, and giving our bodies a pick-me-up when we’re feeling down or sluggish. By working to level out an imbalanced mood, diffused oils also help us to focus. There are also several essential oils which have been shown to help balance the body’s hormones. With prolonged use, these oils can work to repair the underlying causes responsible for hindering cognitive function.

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            11. Money Saving

            With ten clear benefits of oil diffusers already outlined, there is one more that should now be obvious: using an oil diffuser will help you to save money. As an anti-viral, bug repelling, and stress-relief solution rolled into one safe product, an oil diffuser used with the proper oils will save you money on products you might otherwise be buying to help cure those pesky headaches or get your kids to fall asleep on time. If you’re wondering just how affordable oil diffusers can be, check the buyer’s guide to the best oil diffusers — you’ll be sure to find one that fits your budget!

            Featured photo credit: Jopeel Quimpo via unsplash.com

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