Florals add a whimsical essence to culinary creations, and their added health benefits shouldn’t be underrated. Flowers have been a gastronomic delight for ages, and the practice continues today with chefs using petals to add pizzazz and unique flavours.
Whether steeped in lemonade, sprinkled on salads or candied for desserts, keep these 7 Botanical Food and Drink Ideas on hand for when you want to add an ambrosial - and medicinal - touch to your plate.
Beautiful layers of deep purples, yellow, green and white, Passionflower is a nervine that acts therapeutically on the nervous system, calming and soothing nerves, easing tension and pain. A few years ago, I had strong, ongoing muscle spasms and pain in my neck. A farmer first recommended Passionflower tea and every day for a week, I drank a cup at sunset. Don’t expect a fruit flavour though; the tea is very mild. The pain didn’t fully go away, but the relaxation throughout my body was euphoric. Feeling worrisome, sleepless and tense? Make some tea and rest easy. Passionflower may be just the botanical ally you need!
2. PUMPKIN BLOSSOM
If you’ve grown pumpkin or squash in your garden, these delicate, slightly sweet, bright orange-yellow flowers will be familiar. They are also edible! Enjoy them lightly battered and fried, on pizza or added to salads. Stick to eating the male flowers so the pumpkin vine continues growing. Lightly coated in a chickpea flour batter, try this Pumpkin Blossom Fritters recipe with your favourite dipping sauce.
Use sparingly in cooking.
These very small but plentiful violet flowers can quickly become overpowering if too much is added. Lavender is distinctly woody and fragrant, pairing well with sweet and savoury ingredients like chocolate, honey and thyme. Lavender scents are popular in aromatherapy, having a calming effect on the mind, body and spirit. But, I invite you to sip on this Lavender Lemonade made with fresh lemon juice and lavender honey.
Family of the hibiscus, Roselle buds are green when young and turn bright red as they mature and open. The plant is said to be native to West Africa but can also be found growing in the West Indies and Asia. Jamaica sorrel drink is a popular, must have item during Christmas. The tart, fruity flavour is brewed with warming ginger, cloves, cinnamon and brown sugar (optional) to make a delicious, Vitamin C and antioxidant-rich beverage. Sorrel is also used to make jams, chutneys and ice cream!
You have to be quick but gentle to separate rosemary flowers from the tightly packed leaves. Both have a bold flavour. As staples in the kitchen, we infuse our favourite flowers and herbs into everyday meals in delicious, nutritious and tasty ways. Add a medicinal touch to infused water, herb roasted vegetables and salad dressings using rosemary.
Known as the "poor man's saffron,” these sunset-hued flowers have tastes ranging from spicy to bitter to slightly tangy. Incorporate a few petals to brighten any bread, soup and cake; tint or add that yellow- pale orange colour to rice dishes and butters.
In Jamaica, Purslane grows wild and is treated as a mere garden weed. It’s a succulent that produces flat, fleshy, edible green leaves. Soaring in popularity in the last few years, its biggest claim to nutritional fame is its omega-3 fat content, more than almost any other vegetable of its kind. Purslane provides an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. There are tiny, yellow flowers that may also be eaten cooked or as is.
As seasons transition, gather the last bits of botanical bounty growing in your garden.
Drying herbs is an effective preservation method, giving you access to the herbs during colder months.
Things to Note:
1. Avoid pesticide-treated flowers.
2. Petals are the best parts of edible flowers. Remove the firm ends that tend to be bitter.
3. It’s typical - not a must - to remove the stamen and pistil.