The Beauty of Edible Flowers
I love spring flowers, and I notice them wherever I go. They’re lovely to look at, soft to the touch, and add an intoxicating scent to the air. But lately, I’ve been noticing flowers where I’m not so used to seeing them: in food, in drinks and at the spa. Brilliant blooms were sprinkled on top of a savory dish at a James Beard Foundation dinner in New York City and they brightened cocktails at Las Alcobas Spa and Meadowood Napa Valley.
Those sightings inspired me to pick up a few flats at my local farmers market in Manhattan and repot them in my window box, in place of the herbs that usually grow there. Edible flowers add a delicate flavor and a lovely spot of color to a dish, and some are rich in antioxidant vitamins. Rose petals serve up vitamin E and lavender is loaded with vitamin A. Herb blossoms, like chive and viola, are a great source of minerals. And oh, boy, they sure are pretty!
“Some of my favorite edible flowers include dianthus, lavender, gem marigolds, borage, nasturtium, bachelor buttons, calendula, nigella and pea flowers,” says Scott Beattie, beverage director for Estate Events at Meadowood Napa Valley, and author of Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus. “It's important to make sure that the flower(s) that you're using make sense for the particular drink, i.e. the colors are complementary or the flower mirrors another ingredient such as a basil flower for a basil gimlet,” Beattie continues. “Herb blossoms are some of my favorite edible flowers to use because they add an extra aromatic element and I know that I'm always cutting off herb flowers anyways in my own garden to stop them from going to seed. So in this sense they're great as a by-product that I might be throwing out otherwise.”