WISDOM FROM THE WILD CHILD GARDEN: May 2022: EDIBLE FLOWERS & WEEDS: PART I:
Why Edible Flowers & Weeds?
The use of edible flowers and weeds in cooking is an act of pure earthly delight! Fragrance and sheer beauty combine to create a truly sensually scrumptious experience right on the plate.
Surprisingly, there are a wide variety of edible flowers and weeds to enjoy. Discover how to enjoy using edible flowers and weeds and get ready for culinary dishes to become works of art with some help from Mother Nature!
Edible Flowers: Flowers add a touch of whimsy and surprising herbal benefits to culinary creations! Even the tiny flowers of culinary plants in the mint family are edible.
Basil, rosemary, lemon balm, mint, chives, scented geraniums, sunflower, lavender, lilac, yucca, and violet flowers are a delicate and flavorful addition to food.
Borage (Borago officinalis): also known as Star Flower, Borage contains essential fatty acids that the body needs for good health. Essential fatty acids must be ingested from the diet. An essential fatty acid deficiency can directly affect mood, internal inflammation and various cellular functions.
Borage is also packed with other healthy nutrients that are great for the body. It contains high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, B and C vitamins, and beta carotene. This makes the borage plant very nutritional.
The starry violet flowers have a refreshing flavor similar to cucumbers. Used by herbalists to calm the nerves and ease melancholy, these lovely flowers are a cheerful addition to beverages and food alike. As a cooling treat during the heat of summer, use fresh borage in salads or freeze it in ice cubes.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Calendula’s natural anti-inflammatory properties make it wonderful for soothing a sore throat and healing urinary tract infections.
For all medicinal preparations, be sure to use the whole dried flowers, as the medicinal oils are found mostly in the resinous green bases of the flower heads. Take care that the dried petals are bright yellow or orange, which indicates high quality and freshness.
The cheery yellow flowers are like a little ray of sunshine or a sprinkling of gold. Beyond being a delightful addition to food, the flowers are well known for their useful herbal properties. The dried petals make a wonderful addition to soups, stews, and teas during the winter months for their lymphagogue, antiseptic, and immune building properties. To use, simply pull the petals from the flower head and add to salads, soups, sauces, baked goods, and use as a bright, happy decoration on desserts!
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): nutritious and flavorful, the liver cleansing constituents of this alterative herb include inulin, potassium, calcium, sodium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A and C.
Beloved by herbalists, the humble yet vital dandelion offers beautiful golden flowers that can happily grace the kitchen table. Though the root and leaves are most often used by herbalists, the flowers also have useful properties and are used to help relieve pain when taken both internally and externally.
Dandelion fritters are a favorite springtime treat! Gather the blossoms and rinse well with water then leave to dry for a bit. Mix egg and milk together. Dip the dandelion blossoms in this mixture and then dredge them in flour. Fry carefully in olive or coconut oil and enjoy!
Hollyhock Flowers: (Alcea rosea): Hollyhock flowers are demulcent, diuretic and emollient. Similar to the root, the flowers are soothing and cooling helping to ease mucus membrane irritation and inflammation. They are useful in the treatment of chest complaints, and a decoction is used to improve blood circulation, for the treatment of constipation, dysmenorrhea, and hemorrhage.
Hollyhock flowers are rich in phenolic and polyphenolic compounds, which have antimicrobial activity that can help the body to resist infections. Extracts of hollyhock leaves and flowers have been found to be effective against Staph, Salmonellae, E-coli, and Strep, among other bacteria.
With a lovely presence and somewhat bland flavor, Hollyhock flowers are perfect to add to foods for decoration.
Lavender: (Lavandula): a treasured plant from the mint family, lavender boosts little fragrant flower buds that are powerfully flavorful! The flowers are well known as a calming nervine, and they are also used to help ease spasms, and as an antiseptic both internally and externally.
Add a pinch of lavender to teas, cookies, and sauces by grinding the flowers up a little and tossing them in. The floral taste of lavender tea is amazing! A delicious cup of this herbal tea is sweet and fragrant in taste, and it is perfect for calming the mind, reducing tension, and alleviating headaches.
Nasturtium: (Nasturtium officinale): both the leaves and petals of this plant are packed with nutrition and contain high levels of vitamin C. It boosts the immune system, tackles sore throats, coughs, and colds, and fights bacterial and fungal infections. The plant also contains high amounts of manganese, iron, flavonoids, and beta carotene.
The spicy flavor along with hints of bitterness highlight nasturtiums’ usefulness in warming the body and stimulating digestion.
The vibrant, peppery flowers are easy to grow and offer a great addition to the edible flower plate! With bright yellow, orange, and red colors, nasturtiums look beautiful nestled into salads and other dishes. They offer a spicy kick to foods and are particularly fun to stuff with guacamole and soft cheeses.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense): is highly nutritive and rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B and C, calcium, chromium, magnesium, thiamine, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.
As an alterative, red clover helps the body assimilate nutrients, remove metabolic waste, and ease skin conditions, chronic inflammatory conditions, and degenerative diseases. As a lymphatic and diuretic, red clover keeps fluids moving through the lymphatic system and eliminates waste via the urinary system. It also stimulates and nourishes the liver to keep the blood well-filtered.
Red clover can be used as an infusion, tincture, and it can be consumed as food in salads, soups, and stews, vinegar infusions and herbal honeys. It is also excellent as a topical preparation such as a balm, salve, or massage oil. Use the full flower heads to make teas, chop them and add them to food, or pull out the tiny flowers and sprinkle them in culinary dishes!
Rose (Rosa): as an addition to food, roses bring a lovely flavor to dishes with an uplifting and even aphrodisiac quality. The petals are astringent and cooling, and offer a calming nervine action that is both uplifting and soothing.
Gently pull the petals off of the flower base and leave the rest of the flower to mature into tasty rose hips in the autumn. Trim away the white nib from the base of the petal and enjoy!
Rose petals and rosehips can be used to make tea. Rose tea has a tart, fruity flavor and is packed full of Vitamin C, calcium, and zinc to boost immunity, and ease the pain of menstrual cramps.
Violet: (Viola tricolor L.): Often referred as wild pansy, Violets are known for their medicinal properties. Violets contain flavonoids, saponins, and carotenoids that help fight a wide variety of ailments such as skin diseases, allergies, and sore throat.
The flowers are cooling, and are used by herbalists to help soothe coughs, sore throats, digestive disturbances and inflammation. As a gentle nervine, violets help to ease grief and relieve tension.
These delightful little flowers are a joy to work with and make an especially lovely decoration for culinary dishes, desserts, and salads.
Using Edible Flowers: Preservation: Edible flowers lend themselves well to many forms of preservation.
Infuse them in vinegar for later cooking and as a tasty dressing for greens.
Infuse the blossoms in honey and use them to make syrup. Flowers such as red clover, violets, hollyhocks, and calendula make great syrups for winter wellness. Syrups can also be used in teas, lemonades, and with seltzer water to make delicious drinks. A hearty drizzle of syrup on biscuits, ice cream, and over pancakes is especially yummy!
For an extra lovely treat, try layering flowers in sugar or salt! This will add a lovely delicate scent and flavor. Flowers can also be crystallized with an egg white wash and fine sugar coating. This helps preserve the flower’s shape and color so you can use them for later decorations!
Sugared Violet Shortbread Recipe: Note: brightly colored flowers work best. The more vibrant colors made the most impact. Pick flowers in the morning, after the dew has evaporated. Carefully snip or pinch off the stems and any thick parts just behind the blossom, taking care to keep the flower intact. Lay the dry flowers, face side down, on a sheet of parchment paper. Fill the sheet with flowers. Lay an identical sheet over the flowers. Carefully lower a baking sheet over the paper. Layer several large heavy objects on top evenly. Leave for at least 30 minutes. Remove the weights and carefully peel off the top layer of paper to reveal the pressed flowers. Be careful moving them, they’re delicate!
Bake shortbread cookies and while they’re hot from the oven, gently place the pressed flowers on top, lightly patting them down so they adhere. The heat of the cookies will bond the delicate petals to the sur-face, so don’t press too hard. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and let cool completely.
Using Edible Flowers: Butters, Cheeses, Jellies, & Jams: Add edible flowers to softened butters and cheeses, blending in well for a delicious accompaniment to meals. More herbaceous herbs such as thyme, chives, basil, and dill can be added to increase the depth of flavor.
Edible flowers are also an amazing addition to jellies and jams, keeping the loveliness of the season right in the jar!
Wildflower Jelly Recipe: Gather about two cups of edible flowers and herbs. A jelly made from rose petals, citrus blossoms, and passionflowers is lovely! Bring the flowers and herbs inside and give them a rinse and roughly chop them, yielding at least a cup but no more than two. Prepare a water bath canner and sanitize the jars and lids. Put four cups of water in a pot, bring it to a boil, and add the chopped herbs and flowers. Give it all a stir, close the lid, and let it steep for at least an hour. Strain the liquid into a bowl with a cheesecloth.