The Art of Edible Flowers

The new trend in organic cooking is to use edible flowers to bring a delicate and creative touch to your dishes and to enhance the flavours. This is not a new idea but dates back to Roman times and became very popular in the Victoria era but knowing which flowers you should or should not use can be a complicated business.

So if you are not sure where to start or what to use – we have done a little research for you but before you begin our first tip is to use sparingly and keep it simple. Edible flowers can have a strong flavor so mixing to many can over power the taste of your dish.

Remember, not every flower is edible, so don’t use anything you are unsure of and never pick flowers that may have been contaminated by pesticides or traffic fumes.

Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating.  Separate the flower petals from the rest of the flower just prior to use to keep wilting to a minimum.

Edible ‘Garden Flower’ Guide:

Alpine pinks (Dianthus):
Clove-like flavour ideal for adding to cakes as flavoured sugar, oils and vinegars

Bergamot (Monardia didyma):
Strong spicy scent, makes good tea and compliments bacon, poultry, rice and pasta

Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum):
Petals flavour and colour cream soups, fish chowder and egg dishes in the same way as calendula

Daisy (Bellis perennis):
Not a strong flavour but petals make an interesting garnish for cakes and salads

Day lily (Hemerocallis):
Add buds and flowers to stir fry, salads and soups. Crunchy with a peppery after taste but may have a laxative effect. Avoid buds damaged by gall midge

Hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis):
Refreshing citrus-flavoured tea enhanced by rosemary

Hollyhock (Alcea rosea):
Remove all traces of pollen and decorate cakes with crystallized petals

Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia):
Favoured sugar, honey or vinegar can be used to in cakes and biscuits while sprigs compliment roast pork, lamb and chicken

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus):
Brightly-coloured, peppery flowers are good in salads and pasta dishes. The whole flower, leaves, and buds can be used or just the petals for a milder flavour

Marigold (Calendula officinalis):
Intense colour and a peppery taste useful in soups, stews and puddings. Petals can be dried or pickled in vinegar or added to oil or butter

Primrose (Primula vulgaris):
Decorate cakes with crystallized or fresh primrose or cowslip flowers. They can be frozen in ice cubes

Rose (Rosa):
All roses are edible with the more fragrant roses being the best. Petals can be crystallized, used to flavour drinks, sugar and even icing for summer cakes

Scented geraniums (Pelagonium):
Flowers are milder than leaves and can be crystallized or frozen in ice cubes for summer cordials

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus):
Blanch whole buds and serve with garlic butter. Petals can be used in salads or stir fries

Sweet violet (Viola odorata):
Delicate flavour suitable for sweet or savoury dishes as well as tea. Use candy violets and pansies as a garnish on cakes and soufflés

Tiger lily (Lilium leucanthemum var. tigrinum):
Delicate fragrance and flavour enhances salads, omelettes and poultry, plus can be used to stuff fish

Edible ‘Herb Flower’ Guide

Herb flowers like basil, chives, lavender, mint, rosemary and thyme impart a more subtle flavour to food than the leaves. By adding sprigs of edible herb flowers like basil or marjoram to oils and butters the delicate flavours can be used over a longer period.

Most herb flowers are just as tasty as the foliage and very attractive when used in your salads.  Add some petals to any dish you were already going to flavor with the herb.

Borage (Borago offincinalis):
The cucumber flavour of these attractive blue flowers adds interest to cakes, salads and pate. Flowers are easily removed and can be frozen in ice cubes or crystallized

Basil (Ocimum basilicum):
Sweet, clover-like flavour compliments tomato dishes as well as oils, salad dressings and soups. Use aromatic leaves of both green and purple in Mediterranean dishes

Dill (Anethum graveolens):
Aniseed flavour, ideal addition to salads, vegetables and fish dishes. Add flowers to mayonnaise, white sauce and pickles

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum):
Mild onion flavour, good in salads, egg dishes and sauces for fish

Clover (Trifolium pratense):
Both red and white clover flowers can be used to garnish fruit and green salads or make wine from whole red flowers

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare):
All parts are edible and enhance salmon, pâtés and salads. Flowers preserved in oil or vinegar can be used in winter

Mint (Mentha sp):
Apple, pineapple and ginger mint, plus peppermint and spearmint flowers can all be used in oil, vinegar and butter for both sweet and savoury dishes

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):
A sweet flavour similar to the leaves can be used fresh to garnish salads and tomato dishes or to flavour butter or oil

Edible ‘Vegetable Flower’ Guide

Garlic Blossoms (Allium sativum):
The flowers can be white or pink, and the stems are flat instead of round.  The flavor has a garlicky zing that brings out the flavor of your favorite food. Milder than the garlic bulb. Wonderful in salads.

Courgette (Cucurbita pepo) flowers:
Can be eaten hot in a tomato sauce or cold stuffed with cooked rice, cheese, nuts or meat. Use male flowers so as not to reduce yield

Garden pea (Pisum sativum):
Add flowers and young shoots to salad for a fresh pea taste

Salad rocket (Eruca vescaria):
Adds sharp flavour to salads or preserve in oil or butter to accompany meat

Radish Flowers (Raphanus sativus):
Depending on the variety, flowers may be pink, white or yellow, and will have a distinctive, spicy bite (has a radish flavor). Best used in salads. The Radish shoots with their bright red or white tender stalks are very tasty and are great sautd or in salads.

Edible ‘Fruit Blossom’ Guide:

Most fruit trees are usually sprayed just before and during the bloom.  If you are using you own flowers that have not sprayed, use only the petals, not the pistils or stamen.

Apple Blossoms (Malus species):
Apple Blossoms have a delicate floral flavor and aroma.  They are a nice accompaniment to fruit dishes and can easily be candied to use as a garnish.  NOTE: Eat in moderation as the flowers may contain cyanide precursors.  The seeds of the apple fruit and their wild relations are poisonous.

Citrus Blossoms (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, kumquat):
Use highly scented waxy petals sparingly.  Distilled orange flower water is characteristic of Middle Eastern pastries and beverages.Citrus flavor and lemony.

Elderberry Blossoms (Sambucus nigra):
Used to make wine and cordials (see our Elderflower cordial recipe here), or place in a muslin bag to flavour tarts and jellies but removed before serving. Elderflowers can be dipped in batter and deep fried. The blossoms are a creamy color and have a sweet scent and sweet taste.  When harvesting elderberry flowers, do not wash them as that removes much of the fragrance and flavor.  Instead check them carefully for insects.  The fruit is used to make wine.  The flowers, leaves, berries, bark and roots have all been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries.  NOTE: All other parts of this plant, except the berries, are mildly toxic!  They contain a bitter alkaloid and glycoside that may change into cyanide.  The cooked ripe berries of the edible elders are harmless.  Eating uncooked berries may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Cleaning Edible Flowers:

Shake each flower to dislodge insects hidden in the petal folds.

After having removed the stamen, wash the flowers under a fine jet of water or in a strainer placed in a large bowl of water.

Drain and allow to dry on absorbent paper.  The flowers will retain their odor and color providing they dry quickly and that they are not exposed to direct sunlight.

We would love to see your photos of dishes you create with edible flowers, please do share them with us.

Refs:

https://www.rhs.org.uk

https://whatscookingamerica.net

STOP! PLEASE check products for palm oil.

With recent news articles bring our attention to health problems associated with palm oil I wanted to look deeper into this to understand what the dangers actually are.

Firstly I was totally surprised about the number of everyday products containing palm oil – it is literally everywhere and not just in foods but also cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. It’s a source of huge profits for multinational corporations, while at the same time destroying the livelihoods of smallholders, displacing indigenous peoples, causing deforestation and loss of biodiversity. These are all consequences of our over consumption of palm oil.

Palm oil plantations cover 27m hectares, the size of New Zealand!

As consumers, we are unaware that we are complicit in horrific crimes against animals, people and the environment.

PALM OIL ENVIRONMENTAL FACTS:

• An area the size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared EACH HOUR to make way for palm oil production.

• Large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction – the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years.

• Government data has shown that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil.

• In 2006, at least 1,500 orangutans were clubbed to death by palm workers.

• Only 35% of palm growers that are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil are actually certified by the RSPO… the other 65% pay to be “members” and not adhering to the sustainability regulations.

• Palm oil ranks among the U.S. Department of Labour’s top four worst industries for forced and child labour.

• For every hectare of peat forest cleared, 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide are released.

The industry is linked to major deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and displacement of indigenous peoples. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. If nothing changes this large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.

Everyday, huge areas of rainforest in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa are being bulldozed or burnt to make room for more plantations. This releases vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and as a consequence, Indonesia – the world’s largest producer of palm oil – has surpassed the United States in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. With their CO2 and methane emissions, palm oil-based biofuels actually have three times the climate impact of traditional fossil fuels.

Palm oil is not only bad for the climate: endangered species such as the orangutan, Borneo elephant and Sumatran tiger are being pushed closer to extinction while smallholders and indigenous people who have inhabited and protected the forest for generations are often brutally driven from their land. Even on supposedly “sustainable” and “organic” plantations, human rights violations are everyday occurrences,

Orangutans have been found buried alive, killed from machete attacks and guns. Government data has shown that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades. This either occurs during the deforestation process, or after the animal enters a village or existing palm oil plantation in search of food. Mother orangutans are also often killed by poachers and have their babies taken to be sold or kept as pets, or used for entertainment in wildlife tourism parks in countries such as Thailand and Bali.

PALM OIL HEALTH FACTS

• Palm oil is high in saturated fat. One tablespoon of palm oil contains 55 percent of the daily recommendation of saturated fat.

• Half of all supermarket products contain palm oil.

• Half of the palm oil imported into the EU is used for biofuel.

• The 2nd most consumed vegetable oil in the world.

Although there are undeniable health benefits of fresh, untreated palm oil, processed palm is a totally different story and should be avoided.

FRESH PALM OIL:

Palm oil is one of the few fatty fruits in existence. It is different from other plant and animal oils in its fatty acid composition (50% saturated, 40% unsaturated, and 10% polyunsaturated) in that it does NOT promote atherosclerosis or arterial thrombosis.

Where coconut oil has around 90% MCFA’s (fat your body can easily burn for energy) palm oil only contains around 50% MCFA’s.

But in addition to MCFA’s, palm oil is also loaded with the following phytonutrients:

• Carotenoids (alpha-,beta-,and gamma-carotenes)

• Sterols (sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol)

• Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols) – more Vitamin A than any other plant-based oil

• Water-soluble powerful antioxidants, phenolic acids and flavonoids

Subsequently, the health benefits of palm oil include reduced risk of a variety of disease processes including:

• Alzheimer’s disease

• Cancer

• Cataracts

• Cognitive impairment

• Macular degeneration

• Platelet aggregation (blood clotting)

• Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels)

• Hypertension (high blood pressure)

• Vitamin A deficiency

OXIDIZED PALM OIL

Palm oil can be sold in a fresh state or at various levels of oxidation. Oxidation is a result of processing the oil for various culinary purposes. However, a considerable amount of the commonly used palm oil is in the oxidized state, which poses potential dangers to the biochemical and physiological functions of the body.

Oxidized palm oil induces an adverse lipid profile, reproductive toxicity and toxicity of the kidney, lung, liver, and heart.

PROCESSED AND HYDROGENATED PALM OIL

put simply, you want to TOTALLY avoid all processed, hydrogenated oils. Even the amazing health benefits of palm oil are completely negated due to this harmful process which is used to extend shelf life.

Stay safe and keep your shelves stocked with UNREFINED, COLD-PRESSED oils!

Saturated Fat: Palm oil is particularly high in saturated fat. In just 2.5 tablespoons of palm oil, you would exceed the recommended daily maximum of saturated fat.

Cholesterol: Marion Nestle, author of the book “What to Eat”, palmitic acid is a type of saturated that makes up most of the fat in palm oil. She goes on to say in her book that this fat is “especially adept at raising cholesterol levels” and that “palm oils are decidedly worse than butter” for this reason.

Hypertension: In addition to causing weight gain and elevated cholesterol, consuming palm oil that has been heated may elevate blood pressure. Heating vegetable oil produces free radicals. Over time, free radicals can lead to chronic disease.

SOME OF THE COMPANIES THAT USE PALM OIL:

Warburtons: palm oil accounts for between 15-20% of the blend of oils used in its products.

Unilever: the makers of Flora margarine, Knorr soups, Pot Noodles and Dove soap is the world’s biggest user of palm oil.

Premier foods: the makers of Hovis bread, Mr Kipling cakes, Cadbury cakes and Bisto gravy granules uses 30,000 metric tonnes of combined palm/vegetable oil each year.

Nestle: the makers of Kit Kat, Quality Street and Aero uses palm kernel oil in a range of their confectionery and dairy products.

Kelloggs: claims the vast majority of its cereals do not contain palm oil and, where present, it is in small quantities.

SUMMARY:

Although there are health benefits to consuming unprocessed palm oil, there is undeniable evidence showing the health dangers of the processed oil and catastrophic environmental consequences due to our over consumption of palm oil.

I urge us all to read the labels of the products we buy so we can make an informed choice and try to cut down on our use of palm oil as the devastation being caused to our planet is irreversible. It is not necessary to use so much oil in products, when home cooking we would not use so much. Industries are bulking their products out with cheap oils rather than proper ingredients, causing dangerous health effects simply to increase their profits whilst showing a total disregard for the environmental impact they are imposing on the planet.

Please share this article to help prevent the over use of palm oil, therefore saving the lives of innocent animals, indigenous peoples… and us!

Together we can influence corporations to change for the better.

More blogs available at www.wildmedicines.co.uk

Refs:

http://www.Redapes.org

http://www.saynotopalmoil.com

http://www.thedailyhealth.co.uk

http://www.onegreenplanet.org

http://www.rainforest-rescue.org

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk

http://www.draxe.com

http://www.healthyeating.sfgate.com