5 Tips for Including Flowers in Your Summer Cooking
A floral garnish atop a salad, dessert or cheese plate adds both color and whimsical gourmet sophistication. While I'm not above eating the orange-slice garnish on my plate of eggs, the celery in my bloody mary or the sprig of mint topping my sorbet, I've found it difficult to devour a lovely nasturtium flower. When I overcame my reservations about eating something so beautiful, I discovered that edible flowers are a flavorful and nutritious culinary delight. I dug up a harvest of information on edible flora to bring summer's bounty to both your plate and palate.
Edible packaged flowers can often be found in the herb section of your local market. If you prefer to grow your own edible flower garden, research the different species to ensure your buds are safe for consumption. You'll have to experiment because some flowers are mild, while others are peppery -- they run the spectrum of flavors and textures. Lavender, chive flowers and squash blossoms can make your entrée, salad or side an edible work of art.
The nutritional benefit of flowers, stems, leaves and roots varies with each species. Flowers are 95 percent water and have very few calories. Many flowers contain fiber and an array of vitamins and minerals. For instance, squash blossoms contain protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. They are also packed with vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K, among others.
Here are my best tips for bringing a floral adventure into your kitchen:
1. If you have allergies, it is best to gradually introduce small amounts of flowers into your diet.
2. Avoid flowers that have been grown with pesticides or herbicides.
3. To avoid toxins, do not eat flowers that have been grown near roads.
4. Pick flowers just before consuming.
5. Buy organic seeds if you choose to grow your own flowers.
Fun floral serving ideas:
1. Bright Summer Spritzer
Wash flowers gently. Spread the buds out on a cloth to dry. Fill ice-cube trays with water and place a single bloom in each individual section. Serve with iced tea or seltzer and a splash of cranberry or citrus juice.
2. Floral Bibb Salad
Make a simple salad of Bibb lettuce, blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Dress simply with a little olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Garnish with bright yellow and orange calendula flowers for a beautiful and fragrant summer salad.
3. Dazzling Desserts
Use organic baby roses, pansies and nasturtiums instead of icing for a bright, low-calorie addition to cakes and desserts.
The botanical bounty of summer flowers is visually dazzling, delicious and nutritious. Use beautiful buds to make your plate stunning to both your eyes and palate.
Readers -- Did you know that you could eat flowers? Will you be trying any of these tips? Have you cooked or prepared food with flowers in the past? Leave us a comment below and let us know.
Keri Glassman is a contributing editor and advisory board member for Women's Health magazine and is the nutrition and health contributor for NBC's New York Live. She is regularly featured on national television programs and hosts an original series called "A Little Bit Better," which is featured on YouTube's LivestrongWoman channel.Keri resides in New York City with her children, Rex and Maizy. Whether she is training for a marathon, going to the farmers market or drinking her nightly cup of herbal tea, Keri lives and breathes a nutritious life while inspiring others to do the same.