Flowers are typically conceived as decorations for numerous occasions, as well as daily decorations of homes and offices. They are available in all colours of the rainbow, in numerous hues, in different sizes, so floral arrangements of any kind can be prepared, to meet any types of demands.
But there is one more use of flowers that is more practical, and it is not a new one, but recently it has become popular again. People have remembered that flowers can also be edible, and not only the Romans, the Chinese and other ancient people who engaged in flower cookery can be called connoisseurs of flowers, but modern people have started to indulge in the art of flower cooking as well. It can be pointed out that the topic of edible flowers was especially favoured during the reign of Queen Victoria in England.
Nowadays, restaurant chefs not only master the rules of haute cuisine, but they also use edible flowers to garnish their dishes and make them appealingly elegant. Renowned chefs know the secret of using edible flowers – dishes decorated with such flowers should be kept simple, and they should not contain many flowers, so that the flavour of the edible flowers added can be brought out.
Edible flowers include plants which are well known to people and boast enticing flavours and scent. But when people use flowers as decorations for dishes, they should remember that not all flowers are edible. There are flowers that can induce sickness when they are eaten, and flowers that grow by the roadside are full of harmful substances owing to the pollution they are exposed to. People should only use edible flowers which are grown without the use of chemicals, pesticides, etc. Furthermore, edible flowers should be used very sparingly, in order to avoid any complaints of indigestion.
Commonly used edible flowers are begonias, calendula, carnations, chrysanthemums, day lilies, etc.
Begonias boast blossoms that have a sour citrus like taste. Their petals are used for salads, and also as a garnish. The flowers and stems of begonias should not be consumed by people with kidney complaints.
Calendulas, or marigolds, have several types of flavours, spicy to bitter or tangy. They can be sprinkled on soups, on pasta, or on rice. The petals are wonderful for giving a yellowish tint to scrambled eggs or different spreads.
Carnations are great for cake decorations, and they can be steeped in wine or in candy. The petals are pleasantly sweet, whereas the white flower bases are bitter. It should be noted that carnation petals have been used in the production of Chartreuse, a type of French liqueur.
Chrysanthemums are tangy in taste, and they offer a variety of colours, red, white, orange, or yellow. It is important to blanch them first, and then the petals look great when they are scattered on salads. Chrysanthemum leaves are wonderful for flavouring vinegar. The bitter flower bases should be removed before the petals are used. Young stems and leaves are traditionally used in Japanese cuisine as salad seasoning or in stir fries.