Magazine article Sunset

Flowers Good Enough to Eat

Magazine article Sunset

Flowers Good Enough to Eat

Article excerpt

These blooms can wake up a salad or brighten up a plate

What's that flower peeking out from behind the lettuce leaf?" I asked a fellow garden writer last summer.

"The yellow one? Maybe nasturtium, or calendula. Let's ask the cook."

We were about to nibble the flowers in our salad at one of Seattle's best restaurants. Edible blooms are showing up on many plates these days. Some, including calendula, make beautiful garnishes, but others, such as nasturtium, have such intriguing flavors and textures that they can hold their own in a salad.

Which blooms are the tastiest? Last summer, we grew nine edible flowers in Sunset's gardens, then conducted a taste test. The results are described here, along with the tasters' comments.

If you decide to eat flowers, it's safest to use only those you grow yourself. Make sure the seed or plant from which you grow them is tagged with an accurate botanical name (italicized below), so you know exactly what you're growing and eating. And never use pesticides on culinary plants.

If you develop a taste for blossoms, pick up a copy of Edible Flowers, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash (Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, CO, 1995; $22.95), which gives 280 recipes. Barash recommends that flowers not be eaten by those who suffer from hay fever, asthma, or allergies. She also advises removing pistils and stamens from flowers before eating them.

Unless noted, all these plants grow and flower best in full sun.

* BORAGE (Borago officinalis). These small purple-blue flowers are beautiful scattered through a salad, but there isn't much substance to them. Some tasters described the flavor as light and herbal, while others called it grassy. Borage grows best in the summer garden.

* CALENDULA (C. officinalis). Tasters generally liked the look and texture of the yellow or orange flowers, but rated the flavor as bland, slightly bitter, or chrysanthemum-like. When calendula is scattered over other food, however, its flavor recedes into insignificance. Grow this cool-season flower for spring and fall bloom in cold-winter areas, winter bloom in milder climates.

* DAYLILY (Hemerocallis fulva). …

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