A FLOWER FOR EVERY OCCASION

By November 24, 2011Food Trends, Produce, Spring, Summer

Q: Are there any flowers that are better left off the plate?? 

 

The food service industry is just as vulnerable to ‘trending’ as fashion retail or twitter. While we may not update our dining habits as regularly as we tweet, social trends undeniably influence what appears on the menu.

Edible flowers are a prime example of how cultural trends can popularise an ingredient, whether that ingredient is something altogether new or rediscovered by a new generation. More than ever, consumers are actively seeking out food venues that showcase fresh, natural ingredients with a traceable history. The reasons vary; some want assurance that their food is chemical/hormone free, others want to support local farmers, while some just believe that fresh tastes best. Either way, chefs are increasingly under pressure to deliver top quality meals, that look the part, taste the part and play a part in the bigger picture. Edible flowers answer this cultural shift towards natural, sustainable, fresh ingredients, while offering chefs a simple means of adding colour, flavour and texture to their dish.

Simon George & Sons sells a wide range of edible flowers from Flowerdale Sprout Farm in Victoria. Flowerdale Sprout Farm has been producing top quality hydroponic sprouts since 1982 and diversified into edible flowers about five years ago. Grown outdoors, in a chemical free environment and picked by hand, their edible flowers have a good shelf life with many varieties available all year round.

 

BORAGE: aka Syrian Star, Starflower

Availability: September – April

Appearance: Star-shaped vivid blue and pure white flowers

Flavour: light cucumber, oyster flavour

Best for: Cocktails and drinks, garnish, herb salad or green leaf salad, stuffing for pastas, freezing in ice-cubes, candied cake decorations, cold soups and dips

Background: Believed to have originated in Syria, the use of Borage flowers can be traced back to Ancient Greek Mythology, when Helen of Troy was given them to help relieve her sorrow. Borage flowers and leaves were traditionally used as a garnish in Pimms, though this is mostly replaced with mint or cucumber.

 

Geranium: aka Regal Gem

Availability: September – April

Appearance: Available in white, pink, red and yellow

Flavour: Each variety is slightly different but generally citrusy

Best for: Desserts, cakes, jellies, teas

Background: A native of South Africa, this particular variety is a specialty line sold by Flowerdale. Geranium is actually an incorrect labelling of this flower which is actually called a Pelargonium

 

MARIGOLD: aka Monsoon Gold

Availability: September- April

Appearance: 100 petticoat petals, yellow, orange, white and red

Flavour: Anise

Best for: Garnish, add colour to salads, as a replacement for saffron.

Background: Originally from South East Europe, the common English name ‘Mary’s Gold’ was once exclusively used to describe Calendula, which is a sister species.

 

NASTURTIUM: aka Amazon Empress

Availability: September – April

Appearance: Available in a variety of sunset colours including red, orange and yellow. Soft, fragile with bright petals

Flavour: Spicy- crisp peppery taste

Best for: Garnish, salads, stir-fries, cure in vinegar

Background: Native to Central and South America, Nasturtium is the common name for a genus of stunning ornamental plants. It’s name  literally means ‘nose twister’. The leaves, with their stronger flavour, are a particularly interesting addition to a green or herb salad.

 

ROSE PETAL: aka Turkish Delight

Availability: September – April

Appearance: All the stunning colours and fragrances of the rose family are here in varying intensities

Flavour: Aromatic, slightly sweet

Best for: Desserts, Turkish delight, cocktails, salads, syrups

Background: Make sure to remove the bitter white base of the petal before use. Flavour will be strongest in darker varieties.

 

PANSY: aka Vivid Velvet

Availability: All Year

Appearance: Available in a variety of colours, the pansy has large petals and a downward facing flower

Flavour: Mildly grassy, subtly sweet (blues & yellows most fragrant). The petals are mild, however if you eat the whole flower is has a stronger green overtone.

Best for: Garnish, salads, fruit salads, desserts, soups

Background: Derived from the viola family, the Pansy received its name from the French ‘pensee’ meaning  thought. It is believed it was given this name due to the down- turned face of the flower resembling a person bowed in thought.

 

SNAPDRAGON: aka Summer Smile

Availability: September – April

Appearance: A stunning flower that appears like a mouth opening

Flavour: Distinct melon flavour, though can sometimes be a little bitter

Best for: Garnish

Background: Named due to its resemblance to a dragon opening and closing its mouth.

 

VIOLA: aka Merry Melody

Availability: All Year

Appearance: Variety of colours with heart shaped leaves

Flavour: Sweet, perfumed and grassy

Best for: Stuffing poultry or fish, garnish, salads, fruit salads, cocktails, punch, desserts

Background: There are around 400-500 viola species worldwide.

We also have a limited edition range that are well worth a sample.

  • Pink Ballerina (variety of Fuschia)
  • Chive Flowers
  • Elderflowers
  • Geraniums

To find out more or to request a  sample of the edible flowers featured above, please contact Simon George & Sons.

 

A: We eat flowers all the time (broccoli and cauliflower to name a few) but when it comes to serving up finer blooms such as the ones listed above, it is important to note that not all flowers are edible (and even if they are you may not want to eat them as they can cause stomach irritation or simply taste revolting) so it’s best to stick to the varieties approved for consumption. For example, Borage is a wonderful edible flower but is not recommended for consumption in large doses by pregnant or lactating women. The Daylily is widely used in Chinese cuisine but is not currently approved for consumption by the Food Authority of Australia and New Zealand.

It is also important to note that the impact of pesticides or pollution on consumed flowers has not been evaluated, therefore it is not recommended to eat flowers unless the plant has been grown under controlled conditions for the purpose of consumption.

For best flavour, it is recommended that you remove the stamens and pistils from flowers before use. It is also recommended to remove the sepal, with the exception of pansies and violas as the sepal actually adds to the flavour.

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