Now that we're getting comfortable with our floral friends, I'm moving on to salads. Take a moment to remember what we've learned from gardenias, marigolds, chive flowers, anise hyssop, and wild roses.
We now know that flowers don't have to taste, well, floral. They can be festive and fun, but they can also be used as intentional little bites of flavor to enhance any dish—both visually and deliciously.
Today, I'm going simple (but no one will know!). Get your favorite bowl, throw down your favorite greens (I went with peppery and crisp arugula), and take a moment of silence to let your inner creativity (and hunger) flow.
First up, we have basil flowers. Yes, the literal flowers of the basil leaves we know and love. Here we have them in green and purple shown at right. I imagine these slightly anise-y, peppery, subtly sweet buds of herbs as simple pasta salad toppers, soup garnishes, and maybe even a surprise next to some strawberry-black pepper gelato.
Next, we have fennel flowers bursting with licorice-y flavor. Not only do they look like fireworks, but you can harvest the pollen off of the flowers with a Q-tip, and ta-da: fennel pollen! You can sprinkle the faintly sweet, flavorful pollen into soups, stews, meat rubs, and more. They are far fresher and stronger than any fennel seed at the market, so use them sparingly (but don't forget to mention to guests that you harvested it yourself!).
I finished the salad with a few marigold leaves, shaved pickled beet slices, and little tomatoes. Dressed it in a light vinaigrette, and my bloom-ful salad was ready to go.
*** When picking flowers to be eaten, make sure they were grown in a pesticide-free environment (meaning that most florists won’t be a suitable source). Talk to people who sell flowers and even restaurants who use edible flowers, get to know your floral foods, and get creative!
Flowers are best eaten at their peak! Avoid wilted or unopened blossoms. And, as always with new ingredients, slowly introduce them into your diet to prevent possible allergic reactions.