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The Homeowners Column
Don’t forget to eat the daisies
August 15, 2016
State Master Gardener Coordinator
I doubt flank of flower will ever show up on a menu; however, flowers can enliven the taste and color of our food. Most people have never considered eating flowers. However if you have ever eaten artichokes or broccoli you have eaten immature flowers. Herbal teas often contain flowers such as rose or hibiscus. Flowers lend a certain air of elegance to beverages as they float in a punch bowl. It's also great amusement to watch your family pick around in the salad trying to determine the source of the purple color.
Here are a few tips to adding flowers to your diet.
Collecting flowers - Pick flowers in the cool of the day, preferably in early morning after the dew has evaporated. Choose flowers that are at their prime. Flowers that are starting to wilt should not be used.
Storing and preparing flowers - Put flowers with long stems into water and keep them cool. Flowers will quickly wilt in warm temperatures. Pick short stemmed blossoms within three or four hours of using and put them between layers of damp paper toweling or in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Immediately before using, gently wash the flowers, checking carefully for insects and soil.
Parts to eat - Remove the inner reproductive parts, the stamens and pistils, from flowers before eating. The pollen can detract from the flavor of the flower. In addition, the pollen may cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals. Remove the green leafy sepals from all flowers except violas and pansies.
Only petals of some flowers such as rose, calendula, tulip, chrysanthemum, yucca and lavender are edible. When using just the petals, separate them from the rest of the flower just prior to use to prevent wilting.
Roses, dianthus, English daises, marigolds and chrysanthemums have a bitter white portion at the base of the petal where it was attached to the flower. Break or cut off the bitter part of the petal before using.
Preserving flowers - Freezing does not work well in preserving flowers. Daylilies are an exception. However, flowers or petals can be successfully frozen in ice cubes to enliven a drink any time of year. Some flowers can be dried, but the flavor is altered.
A few flowers and their flavor:
Beebalm, Monarda didyma - minty
Calendula, Calendula officinalis - spicy, peppery and adds yellow color to food (known as poor man's saffron).
Daylily, Hemerocallis spp. – sweet leafy (don't overdo this one to avoid possible laxative properties)
Hollyhock, Althaea rosea - slightly bitter to bland
Signet Marigold, Tagetes tenufolia - spicy to bitter
Petunia, Petunia hybrida - green leafy
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus - peppery
Rose, Rosa spp. - sweet
Snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus - bland to bitter
Sunflower, Helianthus annus - green leafy
Herbal flowers such as mint, oregano and basil generally have a mild flavor similar to their leaves.
Guidelines for using edible flowers
1. As with any new food, add small amounts of one variety of flower to your diet at first to lessen any digestive issues from mass quantities.
2. Eat flowers only when you are 100% positive they are edible and you have correctly identified the flowers. Not all flowers are edible and some are even poisonous.
3. Eat only flowers that were specifically grown to be eaten and are free of pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers unless they are labeled to be eaten.
4. If you have hay fever, allergies or asthma, do not eat flowers.
5. Do not eat flowers picked from the side of the road. They can be contaminated with pesticides or car emissions.
6. Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating. Eat only the petals.
Check out our website for more information and recipes for incredible edible flowers. http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/hort.html