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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 September 28, 2020

            The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

            The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

            At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

            Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

            One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

            When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

            So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

            Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

            This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

            Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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            When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

            Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

            One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

            Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

            An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

            When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

            Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

            Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

            We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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            By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

            Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

            While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

            I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

            You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

            Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

            When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

            Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

            Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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            Con #2: Less Human Interaction

            One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

            Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

            Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

            This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

            While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

            Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

            Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

            This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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            For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

            Con #4: Unique Distractions

            Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

            For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

            To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

            Final Thoughts

            Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

            We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

            More About Working From Home

            Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

            Reference

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