Hand-picked and homemade
Flowers can add beauty and flavor to both savory and sweet dishes at home, but think of flowers like mushrooms: If you’re not certain they’re edible, don’t eat them. Consult a reference first, or get your flowers from a source who grows them without pesticides.
Borage tastes like cucumber, adding a fresh element to salads, soups and iced drinks.
Daylilies taste like a cross between squash and asparagus and can be used just like squash blossoms—stuffed or sautéed in pasta, frittata and risotto.
Marigolds are often called the poor man’s saffron because they deliver a similar color and taste at a fraction of the cost.
The flowers of basil, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme taste like concentrated versions of the herbs themselves.
Carnations, chamomile, jasmine, lavender, orange blossom, pineapple sage, rose, rose geranium, verbena and violets make delicate infusions for cocktails, teas, chocolates, baked goods or custard-based desserts.—Megan Headley
Tickle your tastebuds
The Ivy Inn
Flower cookery traces back to the Romans, who used mustard flowers in love potions. Renaissance kings drank peony water and Queen Victoria adored rose petals. Long lost for centuries, cooking and garnishing with edible flowers is seeing a modern day revival. Here’s a delicious bouquet of local dishes that take flowers beyond the centerpiece.—M.H.
Brookville Restaurant improves upon the natural perfection of a ripe tomato by adding peppery arugula, earthy violets and a gazpacho vinaigrette.
Clifton Inn offers spring on a plate with a composed salad of pureed, pickled and cooked seasonal veggies, baby leaves picked from the Inn’s garden, foraged greens and flowers and a chicory-cocoa “soil.”
The Ivy Inn lets the kick of colorful nasturtiums stand in for black pepper in an appetizer that surrounds a slow-cooked farm egg with crispy pork shank, country ham gravy and creamy grits.
Mas Tapas intensifies the rosemary flowers in its Atlantic yellowfin tuna tartare with salt-packed capers, Arbequina olive oil, pimentòn de la Vera, garlic confit and gray sea salt.
Palladio Restaurant at Barboursville Vineyards serves fluffy ricotta and herbed gnocchi with tender, baby squash, spring garlic, and squash blossoms that have been lightly sauteed in butter.
Twisted Tea Bazaar perfumes Chaps vanilla ice cream with rosewater and dried rose petals in their rose milkshake garnished with miniature rosebuds.
Zinc entices our eyes and appetites with a grilled confit of pork shoulder with nasturtiums, pineapple sage, grilled ramps, whipped crème fraiche and Virginia peanuts in a Dijon consommé.
Local flower power
Planet Earth Diversified (PED), a corner anchor of the City Market every week, has most certainly diversified its offerings since 1975 when Michael Clark founded the farm that focuses on ecologically field-grown and greenhouse-grown greens, herbs and vegetables. PED has a “flower house” devoted to edible flowers, supplying chefs, caterers and us humble home cooks with everything from nasturtiums in a rainbow of colors to kaffir lime flowers.
Leslie Jenkins, Clark’s right hand since his tomatoes wooed her over from Integral Yoga 20 years ago, holds down the PED fort at the Meade Park Market on Wednesday afternoons from 3-7pm. A visit to the booth may yield a bucket full of edible flowers along with this recipe.—M.H.
"Rosy Outlook" Coffee Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a glass 9"x9" baking pan and press a handful of geranium leaves, rose petals and pineapple sage blossoms onto the bottom of the greased pan.
In one medium bowl, combine 1 1/3 cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. In another medium bowl, combine 2/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup softened butter, two room temperature eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1 cup shredded flower mixture, comprising rose petals, rose geranium blossoms and leaves, pineapple sage blossoms and slivers of lemon verbena. Beat with a hand mixer on medium until well blended. Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture and blend on medium for about one minute. Pour mixed batter into greased pan, on top of leaves and flowers. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 10-15 minutes and then invert cake onto a plate. Cool completely before cutting into finger tea cakes or squares.