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Edible flowers

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Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) – an edible flower
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)
Calendula officinalis

Eating flowers is not something really new.

Down through the centuries, fresh, dried or in powder form, flowers have effectively garnished and flavoured all kinds of food. Some have been prized since Greek antiquity.

The Romans almost worshipped borage and its gastronomic virtues.

Roses occupied an important place on the table of kings during the Middle Ages.

In the Far East and especially in Japan, that land of culinary surprises, a great number of delights still rely on the use of flowers.

Flowers were gradually eliminated from menus with the advent of refrigeration and the great variety of food available.

Chefs more recently started using flowers anew to garnish dishes, and eating flowers has become increasingly fashionable in fine cuisine. Edible flowers offer gourmets a new range of colours, forms, textures, scents and flavours.

Although flowers are grown almost everywhere, they are not necessarily found in all dinner plates. Each species tastes different... it's up to you to discover. But, a word to the wise, they are not all edible.

Did you know?

Several floral products are already used in our current eating habits.

  • Cloves, for instance, are the dried flower buds of the clove tree which originated on an island in the Philippines.
  • Precious saffron is produced with the minute dried stigma of a crocus flower (Crocus sativus).
  • Rosewater is highly regarded in Turkish cuisine where it serves to flavour desserts and drinks. In Tunisia, there is a similar water based on geraniums (Pelargonium).
  • The buds of pickled nasturtiums are used instead of capers and the ripe, dried and milled seeds are a pepper substitute. The natural yellow pigment of marigold and pot marigold flowers make them very economical substitutes for saffron.
  • Broccoli and artichokes are green flower buds.

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