The beauty of Spring lies not only in new vegetables at the green market but even before they start growing most of them go through a flower budding stage. I don’t want to overlook this glorious stage because it presents a beautiful collage of colors and scents. Spring flowers make my nose tingle.
Orchids, tulips and daffodils are colorful and bright but can you eat them? Maybe but they are not very tasty – when I tried them they were bitter and kind of tough textured. Right now there are pea flowers, cress flowers, pansies, daffodils, thistles and so on Nature’s lawn and they are already showing themselves at some green markets.
(sea urchin, baby squid, octopus, king crab with flower petals)
My Mom’s Spring Flowers
Now don’t understand this wrong -- you should not chop your mother’s vase filled with Spring flowers or run to your local florist and sprinkle them over your culinary creations. Flowers used in cooking are not sprayed with chemicals and are not treated with pesticides. And they are meant to be eaten and have a different taste and texture than your potted tupil plant!
(pansies & arugula flowers in salad)
Pretty & Tasty Flower Additions …
Cooking with flowers adds texture and visual appeal and you get a lot of ooh and ahhs without much preparation, for example …
· Zucchini flowers are too clunky and actually just taste like grass intheir raw state, but when you pickle them they make an interesting companion for grilled fish and such.
· Chive flowers can be plucked from their flowering head and sprinkled over green Spring pea soup adding a little burst of pungent-onion flavor.
· Cress flowers bring a sharp and complex taste to salads – a big surprise in a little bud. It does not take much -- a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkle of French sea salt, a few gratings of fresh black pepper paired with some goat cheese in a buttery bibb lettuce, salad dressing isn’t even necessary.
· Purple violet petals can be candied and strewn over fresh picked berries adding a welcoming textural crunch making your berry bowl visually appealing and even more delicious.
(left photo: honey caramelized peanut butter mousse with banana chips and violets)
(right photo: chocolate marshmallow cake with rose petals)
The Essence of Flowers
Something worth metioning - the essence of roses and orange blossoms can be extracted by steeping them in hot water and then filtering them. The water will have a wonderful aroma which does magic when added in creamy desserts!
(green pea soup with Monte Enebro cheese and cress flowers)
Green Pea Soup with Sheep’s Cheese & Chive Flowers
(recipe yields four soups)
¼-cup vegetable oil such as canola or grape seed oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups fresh peas (frozen greens peas may be substituted)
3 cups hot water
Sea salt such as Baline (to taste)
4 pinches cayenne
2 ounces hard sheep’s milk cheese such as Manchego
2 blooming chive flowers
1. Heat vegetable oil in a pot (1 quart sized) then cook cut garlic on medium heat setting for 2-3 minutes.
2. Combine peas, cooked garlic with cooking oil, salt and cayenne in a kitchen blender then add hot water (water should be close to boiling heat when adding to the peas). Process mixture 3-5 minutes or until pureed.
3. Put pureed pea mixture into a fine mesh strainer, line strainer with a bowl catching strained green pea mixture - push pea mixture with a small laddle through the strainer.
4. Shave cheese with a vegetable peeler into long strands then sprinkle over soup.
5. Pick chive flowers f crom chive bud head then sprinkle over soup.
Chef’s Note: Peas soup may be served hot or chilled