Many cuisines, including our own, incorporate flowers as a matter of course. Yet it would take courage to go against the grain and create potentially edible wedding bouquets.
Commercially-grown flowers that have been chemically treated for fertility or longevity are unsuitable for eating. So are flowers that are not fully open, and those that are beginning to wilt. Bouquets must be dismantled, and flowers must be washed individually, to remove any adhering soil and insects.
Always remove anthers, styles, sepals, and stamens, unless you are certain they may be eaten. These detract from the flavour, and may cause allergic reactions.
Certain flowers, such as clover, violets, and honeysuckle may be eaten in their entirety. With nasturtiums, dandelions and other flowers, you may eat the leaves as well as the blooms. However, only the petals of the tulip, lavender, rose and calendula may be eaten.
Chrysanthemums, daisies, roses and other blooms must have the white bit at the base of the petal, where it was attached to the flower, removed, since it is bitter.
Flowers from your bouquet may also be preserved for use in sweet or savory dishes, as garnishes, or to make jams.
Jasmine: Make your own fragrant jasmine tea or rice by infusing petals in hot water.
Honeysuckle: The name says it all; but remember that whereas the flowers are edible, the berries are highly poisonous.
Hibiscus: This has a citrusy flavour, the taste you would get if you combined cranberry and tangerine juices, but must be used sparingly in salads, or to prettify soups. Its petals are slightly acidic, and tend to weep colour.
Calendula: These have a flavour that is similar to saffron – yet more pungent and bitter, and peppery. They go well with rice, salads poultry, and omelettes. A few leaves processed with milk give the shake an interesting colour and a refreshing taste.
Dianthus: Use petals for their clove-like or nutmeg scent, as well as colour, in vegetable or fruit salads.
Cornflower: This has a faint, clove-like flavour and its blue colour makes it an unusual eye-catching garnish.
Nasturtiums: These have a peppery taste that goes well with quiche, chicken and fish; the leaves add pizzazz to salads. In countries where capers are considered exotic (and therefore expensive), pickled nasturtium seed pods are used instead.
Gladioli: Oddly enough the petals taste of lettuce. Placed in a glass, they make an interesting lining for individual servings of mousse or dip; always remove the anthers. They may be added to both sweet and savoury stuffing.
Lilac: With a highly floral, slightly bitter lemony flavor, this flower is best used sparingly, in raw or cooked vegetable salads.
Fuchsia: Petals have an interesting shape – and a slightly acidic flavor.
Carnations: These have a sweet, spicy flavor. Steep in white wine and remove before serving. Carnation petals are used in Chartreuse.
Chrysanthemums: The petals must be blanched before use in tisanes. They have a slightly bitter, peppery flavor, and maybe used in salads.
Pansy: These flowers taste of grass. You can use them in soups and salads.
Sunflower: The petals have a bitter-sweet flavor and taste like a cross between chrysanthemum petals and Jerusalem artichokes.
Roses: The epitome of edible flowers, their taste varies according to colour and type of bloom. The darker the colour, the more pronounced the flavour. Petals may taste vaguely of mint, spice, strawberries and green apples.
Tulip: Different varieties taste of peas, cucumbers, or lettuce. However, tulips cause strong allergic reactions in some people – and the bulbs are poisonous.
Violets: Some people don’t eat violets because they taste of perfume. They are used in fruit squashes and ice-creams, and, frosted, they are used to decorate cakes and trifles. The leaves may be boiled like spinach.
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