Deb Babcock: Flowers pretty enough to eat

Some flowers can add flavor and aroma to salad dressings and more

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

Edible flowers

Edible flowers include:

Bee balm (Monarda)

Begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida)

Calendula

Chive blossom (Allium)

Chrysanthemum (Dendranthema x grandiflorum)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)

Dianthus/Pinks

English daisy (Bellis perennis)

Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)

Hyssop

Lavender

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Pansy (Viola)

Rose (Rosa)

Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)

Tulip

Violet (Viola)

— The aromas, colors and textures of some flowers and plants are so tantalizing, they seem good enough to eat. Luckily for us, many flowers are edible. They not only make a beautiful garnish, but many flowers enhance food with flavor and fragrance, too.

Many cooks like to use flowers in sauces, jellies, honeys, oils and teas as well as in baking, wine and flavored liquors.

Consider decorating your salads with the crispy petals of roses and the flowers and greenery of nasturtiums or the spicy flower head of chives. Or use flowers such as hibiscus to infuse flavor and aroma in your vinaigrette dressing.

Perfumed butters are another way to use flowers in cooking. Reduce rose petals or lavender or another favorite edible flower in a wine sauce and then blend that mixture into the butter. Lemon verbena used in a beurre blanc sauce adds a wonderful mild citrus flavor.

Squash blossoms, often still attached to the vegetable, make a great container for all kinds of stuffings. Impress company by filling blossoms with seafood mousse, cheese fillings and mushroom pâté.

Generally, it’s the petals of edible flowers that are eaten. The stems and other parts often are bitter-tasting. Choose your flowers early in the day when they’re freshest, and be sure to avoid flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides or those that have been chewed by insects.

A word of caution: never use flowers in food unless you are certain they’re edible. Many familiar flowers are actually poisonous, including lily of the valley, clematis, crocus, morning glories, nicotiana, sweet peas and foxgloves.

As you consider what to plant in your garden this year, consider some of these edible flowers:

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) are best used as a garnish or a container for dip. Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) provide a citrus flavor to foods, and English daisy (Bellis perennis) adds a mild to bitter flavor to food. For a sweet, perfumed enhancement to your food, add bee balm (Monarda didyma) or lavender (Lavandula angustifolia).

Out-of-season flowers or edible flowers that cannot be grown in our Zone 3-4 environment often can be obtained from our local grocery stores in the produce section.

Add subtle flavors, texture and beautiful color to your meal with edible flowers.

Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the CSU Extension Office in Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.

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