Did you know children prefer more variety on their plates than adults? Children like six different food colors and as many as seven different food components on their plates, while adults prefer to stick with a more modest three colors and three foods. Perhaps this has to do with realizing three dishes are far easier to prepare than seven. Regardless, there is something to be said for adding color to create an eye-catching plate.
With Spring now upon us, Mother Nature is beginning to remind us all just how colorful the world can be. From the small true leaves of budding plants to the vibrant flowers of mature blossoms, bright colors are everywhere. Why not harvest a few of those brilliant green true leaves or rich edible flowers to add an exciting new dimension to your dinner plates this season?
The art and fun of dining on edible flowers
People have been known to eat edible flowers throughout history. References to edible flowers can be traced back to writings by ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese herbalists. From petals brewed in teas to main courses, edible flowers are an easy way to spruce up any dish.
What are some edible flowers?
Around 100 varieties of the common garden flower are edible. Rose, dandelion, and violets are all edible flowers. Even some vegetables are edible flowers: think of zucchini blossoms or the blooms you see on broccoli and cauliflower. A few other edible flowers you may or may not have heard of include:
- Carnation has a flavor reminiscent of cloves. You can add the petals to salads, herb butters, or even jellies
- Dandelions work well in salads as well. Eat them raw or steam them for a honey-like flavor. Just don’t eat the stems.
- Garland Chrysathemum is common in many Asian cuisines. It’s tangy petals are a great accompaniment to lamb. Or try steaming, stir-frying, or boiling the leaves and using them in place of other greens.
- Roses aren’t surprising to find on a list of edible flowers. They’re petals have been used in teas for centuries. A fun fact about roses: the darker the flower, the sweeter the petal. Candied miniature roses are a wonderful alternative to sugar flowers for cupcakes and cakes.
- Violets also work well candied as decoration on baked goods and desserts. Violets are also a nice choice for salads. Try pairing them with scented geranium leaves and lemon for a fragrant salad this Spring.
- Scented Geraniums come in a variety of flavors. From lemon to rose to nutmeg, they can make a great addition to ice creams and sorbets among other desserts. For a more savory component, choose the leaves over the petals and add them to soups or sauces for a flavor boost.
- Zucchini Blossoms are no stranger to the Italian kitchen. Recently they’ve been cropping up at Farmer’s Markets on this side of the Atlantic, too. To use, take a male flower (male because the females have a bulge which will make the next step difficult) and stuff it then pan fry for a crisp exterior. They can also be lightly battered and deep fried sans stuffing.
Other unique ways to liven up your plate:
Beyond edible flowers, other edible greens you can use to brighten up your plate are microgreens. Microgreens are the seedlings of vegetable, herb or other plants that are harvested at less than 14 days. They contain a stem and usually contain partially developed true leaves. They can range in height from one inch to one and a half inches and half an inch to one inch in width. The exact size and leaf configuration will depend on the type of microgreen. For instance, some microgreens will have three to four sets of true leaves while other will have none.
Commonly used in fine dining restaurants, microgreens can add fresh flavor and a spark of color to salads, sandwiches, and soups. They’ve been around for two or three decades, but have only recently begun to garner hype with the broader food industry. Microgreens may be small, but they pack a mighty punch in terms of flavor. If you’re looking for a spark of color and flavor, look no farther than microgreens.