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Before you venture out to the garden and harvest a bunch of flowers for the dinner table, itu2019s important to remember that some flowers are poisonous. Make sure youu2019ve made a positive identification of each variety youu2019re using. Obviously, you should avoid flowers that may have been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals, so either grow your own organic flowers, or harvest them from a location youu2019re sure about. Organic or not, all flowers should be shaken and washed in cold water prior to use, as they may to be homes for insects.
Pick your edible flowers in the morning, when they have the highest water content. Keep them on some dampened paper towel inside a sealed container in the refrigerator for as long as a week. You can revive wilted flowers by floating them in some ice water for a few minutes. Prepare them for eating just before serving in order to prevent further wilting. Heavy perfume is appealing to them so plant strong-scented, old-fashioned flowers rather than modern hybrids which may lack the fragrance of their heirloomu00a0parents.
The exception here is the Violas, including Johnny-Jump-Ups and pansies, as well as scarlet runner beans, honeysuckle and clover. The flowers of these varieties can be enjoyed whole, and will probably be more flavourful this way.
Agastacheu2013 Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is also sometimes known as licorice mint. Both the young leaves and the striking purple flowers have a mild licorice flavour. Pull the purple flower tubes away from the central structure of the flower and scatter them in salads or fancy drinks for a pop of colour and flavour.
Angelica u2013 This relative of celeryu00a0(Angelica archangelica) has licorice-scented pinkish flowers borne in large umbels. The flowers make an interesting addition to salads, but it is mostly grown for its stronger-tasting leaves.
Apple u2013 Be sure to only try flowers from trees that have not been sprayed. Apple blossoms (Malus spp.) have an appealing but delicate flavour and scent. They work particularly well with fresh fruit salads. Use in moderation, as the flowers contain very low levels of poisonous chemicals.
Cornfloweru00a0u2013 The pretty, blue flowers of cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) have a slightly spicy, clove-like flavour with a subtle sweetness. Cornflower petals look wonderful in salads. Use torn petals as a garnish, or whole flowers in fancy drinks.
Dameu2019s Rocket u2013 The petals of this tall relative of mustard (Hesperis matronalis) are pink, lavender, or white, and always come in fours. Perennial Phlox looks similar, and also has edible flowers, but always have five petals. The petals (and the immature leaves) of Dameu2019s Rocket are worth adding to salads, but have a mild bitter flavour.
Sunfloweru00a0u2013 Itu2019s still a little known fact that unopened sunflower (Helianthus annuus) buds can be steamed or sautu00e9ed in butter and served whole. They have an artichoke-like flavour. Alternately, the petals can be pulled from the edge of the opened flower and added to soups and salads. Their flavour is somewhat bitter.
Violetu00a0u2013 Many varieties (Viola spp.) are suitable for decorating food. They come in a range of sweet, perfumed flavours, and a wide range of colours. Some of the tiniest violet flowers make the best additions to cakes, drinks, and salads.
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