When I was a kid, I ate inedible things as if I were a goat, attempting to stick bugs in my mouth and passing over a plate of carrots for a bundle of dandelions. I quickly learned that both bugs and flowers belong in the ground, but now I’m not so sure (though bugs are still foreign to my palate…).
Flowers have been eaten for their flavors and nutritional qualities for centuries. And now we see them appearing in delicate liquors and carefully-crafted cakes. As a believer in having fun with your food and bringing the whimsy of cooking into the kitchen, I tackled the task of cooking with a few edible flowers from our Cooking Light garden.
First up, gardenias. Popular in Southern regions, the creamy white flowers have shiny stiff leaves that pop up in aromatic bunches. Eaten raw, the flower petals are as surprisingly sweet in flavor as they are in fragrance. To enhance their flavor and maintain the color, I decided to crystallize them!
Crystallized Gardenia Petals* This method works for other sweet flowers such as violets and roses as well.
Ingredients:Flower petalsSugar1 Egg white2 Tbsp waterSmall paintbrush/ pastry brush
Start by picking the petals off of the stem, gently to avoid bruising the delicate buds. Set those aside, and whisk together your egg white and water together to create an egg wash. Then, use your small brush to lightly cover both sides of a petal, and proceed to sprinkle the sugar on both sides as well. As you brush and sprinkle each petal, lay them out onto a sheet pan and allow them to dry for 2 hours.
After that, you are free to munch on the crunchy, subtly sweet petals or use them on top of cupcakes and other desserts!
They will keep for a few days based on how fresh the flowers are. For storage, gently layer into an airtight container.
*** 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 unopen blossoms. And as always with new ingredients, slowly introduce them into your diet to prevent possible allergic reactions.