Cooking with (edible) flowers- more than just a pretty face!

 

 

 

If you’ve ever thought about using flowers with your food at all, chances are it’s as a pretty- but ultimately useless- decor item… but no longer! Today, Saragossa Game Reserve are going to show you the joys of cooking with edible flowers.

Really flowers in a meal?

Yes! Presented with a pretty plate of vibrant hues, people can have understandable misgivings. Will they enjoy it? Is the chef sure it’s safe? The tradition of using edible flowers, however, dates way back into prehistory. Romans, Ancient Egyptians and some Asian cultures all have dishes that regularly included floral ingredients. There’s even a few mentioned in the Old Testament.

What types of flowers are edible?

Of course, the key lies in choosing the right flowers for the job. Firstly, of course, safety is always important- it’s best to stick with the tried-and-trusted list of edible flowers rather than experiment! Secondly, you want the right taste to meld well with the rest of the meal.

It’s important to make sure you know the source of your flowers impeccably- you don’t want petals treated with pesticides or other products. It’s best if they were grown specifically for the table. As with veggies, they need to be clean and free of bacterial contamination, so avoid petals which have dropped on the floor too. Most require the inner stamens removing carefully, too. Lastly, it’s important to plan the dish- most flowers have a delicate flavour profile that will be easily overwhelmed by other spices, so you want to be sure to showcase them in your dish.

What do edible flowers taste like?

Many veggie flowers, such as those of pumpkins and bananas, have been used as an accompaniment for bahajjis and fritters in Indian cuisine. Batter-dipped marrow flowers can be quite heavenly! For a more bitter taste, we can look to a wealth of floral herbs such as chamomile, dandelion, horseradish and wild lettuce and chives. Just as you’d use the herb, you can use the flower to accompany soups and heavy, creamy or starchy dishes like eggs or potatoes. Elderflowers, also used for some home-brewed wines, have a sweet, slightly citrusy aroma, while rose and lavender both have a sweet taste that’s long been a hit in a variety of delicate desserts.

You’ve probably had a refreshing glass of tart hibiscus tea without realising it before, too! Dianthus is also a favourite for teas, and also can be used in creamy soups or to pep up a fruit platter. For salads and some cooked dishes, nasturtiums add a crisp, peppery taste that’s delectable. Violas are another favourite for salads, starters, soups and even desserts- it’s a truly versatile choice with a mild flavour profile if you’re new to the idea. Marigold adds a heavenly bite to rice dishes as well as matching some crisp desserts, and Cucurbita is commonly used as an innovative veggie stuffing.

From deliciously ‘bitter’ or crisply peppery/oniony, right through to luxuriously sweet, edible flowers add a gorgeous, novel flavour profile to a wide range of dishes. The Saragossa Game Reserve restaurant uses a variety of tasty local flowers in its dishes, so if you’re still a little on-the-fence, why not come and try them today?

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