Flower Power
April 12, 2014 9:59 AM   Subscribe

After some great success with a lavender and blueberry sauce I was thinking it would be fun to have a whole party based around flower/flowering food and drink. I've got blooming flower tea and rose-infused vodka on the list, and my local market occasionally sells edible flowers around this time of year - but what are some other flower-based dishes I should be looking at? What should I be looking out for in terms of safety and not accidentally poisoning my guests? What kind of springtime courses would be in season? (For the sake of my sanity I'm going to try for buffet style small plates) And is there anyplace online or in the NYC area that specializes in edible flowers?

I've seen the previous "Help me eat more flowers" AskMe and I'm looking for less jams and preserves and more whole-flower displays that are also edible.
posted by The Whelk to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Nasturtium risotto!
posted by neroli at 10:02 AM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whatever cocktails you make, drop a hibiscus in syrup in!
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:04 AM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Candied hibiscus flowers are kinda like gummy candy in texture. If all else fails, you can find them on Amazon.
posted by jessicapierce at 10:17 AM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Weird timing: I just put this pan-fried sea bass with harissa and rose on my dinner schedule for tomorrow night. I haven't made it yet but I don't really see how it isn't going to be awesome. You could easily turn it into smaller portions if you want to do a tapas-style thing.
posted by something something at 10:20 AM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

stuffed zucchini flowers!
posted by mymbleth at 10:21 AM on April 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Lavender ice cream.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:26 AM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Once you get to the point of eating entire flowers, Hibiscus Sabdariffa (one of several species of Hibiscus that gets eaten or used for tea) can be toxic in higher doses.
posted by XMLicious at 10:29 AM on April 12, 2014

This is a leaf, not a flower, and should only be eaten in small quantities, but a park ranger introduced me to eating redwood sorrel, and it tastes like apple candy! If you can get your hands on some, I think your guests would find it delightful.
posted by tinymegalo at 10:30 AM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Violets and pansies are edible.
posted by brujita at 10:31 AM on April 12, 2014

The BBC has a nice list of recipies using elderflower.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:32 AM on April 12, 2014

Sources for edible flowers in NYC include Manhattan Fruit Exchange (in Chelsea Market, they keep them in back and you have to ask for them) and the Union Square Greenmarket (I know the hydroponic farm usually has nasturtium).
posted by kathryn at 10:33 AM on April 12, 2014

The people at Thiercelin have blueberry flowers, among other choices. I have some of their candied violets and rose petals--they're small and intended for decoration.

Chamomile flowers are a little small, not in-your-face showy, but they're pretty. Relatively easy to grow, too, although that's not helpful for near-term party planning.

Nasturtium leaves have a nice peppery flavor. If you can get the flowers (or if you've grown them), they tend to be nice and eye-catching.

If you want to punch up a 'flowery' flavor in anything, orange flower water from Lebanon is generally excellent, and cheap at Mideastern groceries. Several brands are good, look for bottles with a little color in the water for the best flavor.
posted by gimonca at 10:47 AM on April 12, 2014

How about quick-pickled cucumbers in a marigold dressing?

The link above isn't for blueberry flowers (I doubt those are tasty if edible), but rather for dried cornflowers.
posted by Specklet at 10:57 AM on April 12, 2014

I used these geranium bourbon crystals to make buttermints to scratch a floral candy itch recently. Simple, tasty, maybe a good post-prandial treat?
posted by kmennie at 11:03 AM on April 12, 2014

Candied violets to go with tea after.

Marigolds are absolutely delicious in a salad.

Stuffed squash blossoms.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:11 AM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Chrysanthemum, jasmine, osmanthus teas. Check out Chinese markets for these and especially for tea made from the whole or partial chrysanthemum blossoms. You could even use the teas to flavor a rice/grain or steamed protein of some kind, to end up with a more substantial dish for your buffet.

Chive blossoms taste amazing and savory. This might be something you could talk to farmers market vendor about saving for you for the following week, or if you know someone with a garden (I have no idea if they'd be blooming yet in NY area.)

Saffron is technically a part of a flower: the stigmas from a type of crocus blossom.

Capers are the unopened flowers (buds) of the caper bush aka Flinders Rose.

A general safety tip: if you decide to forage any flowers on your own make 100% sure you are harvesting from an area that doesn't have contaminated soil from previous uses (like some parks have been built on former industrial sites, etc.) and that the plants are not sprayed/treated with unhealthy fertilizers or poisonous herbicides or pesticides.

Here are a couple lovely edible flower presentation ideas:
Popsicles, and a Cake (she also has some general tips for working with edible flowers and what kinds to seek out.)

Also, totally get that you're going for dishes that feature/display the FLOWER but just in case need to fill out your menu with flower-related items:

Dandelion! The greens are easy to find at specialty/natural groceries and popular in the spring. You can get dandelion root tea commercially but it can be kind of intense. You can eat the blooms (I once battered and fried them to make amazing fritters) but they will likely be hard to find this time of year. You usually need to forage them from an non-contaminated area. There is also of course dandelion wine made from the blooms.

Sunflower seeds: you could make a sunflower seed pesto pasta and garnish with nasturtium blossoms or otherwise.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:13 AM on April 12, 2014

I've never had zucchini blossoms, but I reckon they're pretty similar to squash blossoms which I have had and which were very tasty.

You could hand out Choward's as party favors.
posted by usonian at 11:35 AM on April 12, 2014

Artichokes are flowers.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:51 AM on April 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

Elderberry blossoms make a lovely flavored drink.
posted by three blind mice at 12:03 PM on April 12, 2014

I have eaten candied violets, nasturtiums in salads and squash/zucchini blossoms. Also, elderflowers, camomile flowers, rosehips growing in the wild (technically, the "fruit" of the rose flower after it has bloomed). All very tasty!
posted by Lynsey at 12:07 PM on April 12, 2014

I like salep (aka sahlab) which is a thick hot sweet drink or pudding of mideast origin… traditionally it is made from orchids, and even in the more typical incarnation that's based on corn starch, it can be flavored with rose water or orange blossom water.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:30 PM on April 12, 2014

I made an arugula flower pesto the other day. Might be harder to come by, but if you find someone with a plot that's going to seed you're golden. The flowers taste like...arugula.

Borage is delicious is drinks and cocktails. I have a book somewhere where they advise freezing borage flowers in ice cube trays for beautiful ice.
posted by theweasel at 3:07 PM on April 12, 2014

Wood, a place in my gayborhood in Chicago, makes/used to make my favorite cocktail, One Small Step.

It's served in a tall, narrow glass with ice, and the drink is pale grey at the top, violet at the bottom. It's beautiful, and the flavor is out of this world. (I believe the lemon is a syrup, as there is no garnish; however, a violet garnish would work very nicely.)

Ingredients: Hangar One Spiced Pear‏ Vodka, Smith & Winter Violette, Saint Germaine, lemon
posted by heyho at 6:12 PM on April 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Elderflower is delicious- tastes a little bit like pear or peach, very refreshing- so an Elderflower cocktail of some type would be great. Saint-Germain is Elderflower liquer; Elderflower fizzy water is really nice, too.
Also, rose ice cream is amazing. Just mix some rosewater ($4/bottle at an Indian or Middle Eastern grocery store), maybe a half tablespoon per serving, into softened vanilla ice cream, then re-freeze it. You could add organic rose petals for prettiness, too.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:03 AM on April 13, 2014

Rosewater makes great and interesting desserts. I made my daughter rosewater cupcakes for her birthday one year, decorated with candied rose petals on top.

Elderflower syrup is great with gin -- I don't know if you could get some petals floating through there too, but it'd be pretty. I also think nasturtiums are tasty in salads -- in a green salad, about the amount you'd put in of croutons or tomatoes. And if you could time this just right, and have actual sunflowers with seeds about to spill out, that would be really cool.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:44 AM on April 13, 2014

Here is a wonderful St-Germain cocktail developed at PDT in NYC, a take on the Last Word:

Vieux Mot

1 1/2 ounces Plymouth gin
3/4 ounce St Germain
1/4 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

One of my favorite cocktails ever, the Juliet & Romeo, from Violet Hour (ha) in Chicago uses rosewater.

Daniel in NYC also does a "White Cosmo" cocktail with a whole orchid frozen in ice.
posted by kathryn at 8:48 AM on April 13, 2014

Fair warning about chrysanthemum: there is a (severe, IIRC) allergy to them. So have an Epi-Pen ready.

Oh also Queen Anne's Lace is essentially a carrot flower. 99.99999% they are edible.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:01 AM on April 13, 2014

Supplier of fresh edible flowers and microgreens (amongst other fascinating goodies). Recipes located onsite too.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:37 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

My friends and I invented a great floral cocktail we call "Geisha's Kiss"

You mix 1-2 tsp of matcha (green tea powder) with 4 oz of cold unfiltered sake. Add a splash of rose water or orange blossom water. It's a good balance of sweet, floral, and herbal, and it turns this beautiful milky jade color :) You can also use cherry blossom essence instead of rose or orange blossom if you want a more traditionally Japanese flavor profile.

If you don't like (or can't find) matcha, a spoonful of pomegranate syrup is also good with this.

Rose geranium or jasmine flowers are also wonderful for dessert topping (they pair nicely with red berries, and are great infused in whipped cream). You can also drop a small handful in a jug of water with a few pieces of sliced and peeled cucumber to make a floral agua fresca.
posted by ananci at 3:20 PM on April 14, 2014

I suspect this is far too late for your party, but I like this cast iron pan upside down cake recipe from Martha using cornmeal, peaches, and dried lavender. The cornmeal does a pretty good job of keeping the lavender from being overwhelmingly flowery but retains enough of the fragrance to give the cake a special taste.
posted by maryr at 8:00 AM on June 24, 2014

BTW, those flowers gimonca linked look lovely, but seem to be cornflowers, not blueberry flowers. The Quebecois do use the term "bleuet" for blueberries, but the French use "myrtille". Blueberry flowers are beautiful and dainty, but reasonably short lived and not very showy. (I was surprised by the idea that one could buy them and disappointed on looking at the link, which is why I am mentioning all this.)

Adding to the confusion, in the US, bluets are these flowers or these damselflies.
posted by maryr at 8:19 AM on June 24, 2014

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