An authentic Mexican pottery salad bowl full of fresh gourmet lettuce, garnished with colorful flower petals makes a stunning summer picnic offering. Several herbs and flowers can be used to dress up a variety of salads, drinks and other dishes for special occasions. The colorful petals of edible flowers will transform any ordinary salad into a feast for the palate and the eyes.
Edible flowers are a delicacy and are sold in some supermarkets. It is very likely that you have some of these flowers already growing in your garden. Make sure that no chemicals have been used on these flowers.
Once you have located your edible flowers, harvest the flowers – preferably early in the morning. Wash the flowers carefully with drinking water, then let them air dry or, if you have a handy salad spinner, give them a few slings. If needed, washed flowers can also be stored in the fridge inside a big plastic ziplock bag since you always want to add them to your dishes at the last minute, and use them sparingly to keep it very special.
Let me walk you through some of the most popular edible flower petals:
- Calendula officinalis – known in France as the “pot herb”, a vegetable to be used in the cooking pot. Its lovely bright orange-yellow double blooms contain numerous tiny petals, adding color and flavor to seafood, soups, salads, rice and egg dishes.
- Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – its fresh leaves, flowers and unripe seedpods have a peppery flavor similar to watercress. Red, orange or yellow blooms lend a special flavor to stews, soups, seafood and add a festive element to a summer salad. It also makes a stunning garnish to hors d’oeuvres and can be combined with soft cream cheese on a bagel or a tomato sandwich. Let some flowers dance in your champagne bowl.
- Borago officinalis – Borage is a native Mediterranean herb with stunning blue star-shaped flowers that has now naturalized throughout the world. Its small tender leaves with their cucumber-like flavor are delicious in salads, cold drinks, fish sauces, or can be cooked like spinach. The blue flowers look lovely as garnishes in punches and other iced drinks and on top of cakes. By placing a flower inside your ice cube tray sections when you start a new batch of cubes, you will have flowered-ice cubes later. Once you have this plant in your garden, it spontaneously re-seeds.
Some other edible flowers or petals are young squash blossoms, day lilies, roses, honeysuckle, chamomile and flowers from Thyme and Cilantro.
At your next cocktail party spoil your guests with an old-fashioned finger-bowl. Add a little lemon or lime juice to a bowl of cold water, and decorate the top with floating leaves of scented geraniums, mint, lemon verbena or other sweet herbs or flowers. Your guests will be delighted and grateful.