I’m sure you have heard the phrase “too pretty to eat” more that just a few times, but that is the dilemma when it comes to those colorful flowers that also provide a robust flavor to some ordinary dishes.
Sure some of the plants that fall in this category are those that we would not associate as being “flowers”, including broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes. Some flower “products” would also fall into this category, including the spice saffron which is the stamen from the crocus flower. Also, capers are unopened flower buds to a bush native in the Mediterranean and Asian nations. These may not be as easy on the eyes like the flowers we plant for landscaping, but there are those that do fall into this duel purpose category.
We have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shipment come in every Saturday that provides us with Ohio-based fresh, organically grown veggies. Last week we were honored with a bunch of flowers in the pink radish and black mustard (yellow & white in color) varieties. The peppery flavor provided a nice touch as we placed these in salads as well as a finishing touch on omelets and veggie medleys. The result was a tasty dish that was that much more colorful and that much more appetizing.
A bit curious I contacted the owner/operator of Elizabeth Telling Farm http://www.elizabethtellingfarm.com/ near Barnesville, Ohio (our CSA), Sandy Sterrett. She says she usually eats, “…them raw on a salad, but I also like to add at the last minute to a vegetable that needs a little pick me up.” No, you don’t have to look high and low for such flowers. Odds are that if you plant them it is a good bet they will continue to be there as the seasons roll by. That is exactly what happened on Sterrett’s farm. She says the black mustard that grows on her land, “…is now wild but was originally planted.” Seems like a good long term investment on what could be just a one time purchase.
Of the mustard flowers the web site http://whatscookingamerica.net/ says the, “Young leaves can be steamed, used as an herb, eaten raw, or cooked like spinach.” As a precaution they also note that, “…some people are highly allergic to mustard” and caution you to start with a small amount just in case.
As for the radish flowers the web site says that, “Depending on the variety, flowers may be pink, white or yellow, and will have a distinctive, spicy bite (has a radish flavor).” They say these are best used in salads.
It just goes to show that being unique in the kitchen does not mean you have to have a prestigious culinary education. All you need is a willingness to try something new.
Information on what types of flowers are edible and the flavor they offer can be found at: