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Don't Be a Pansy- Try It!

Text by: Nanette Steimle

Are your flowers blooming? Are they telling you that warm days are finally here? Are they beckoning you to pick them… smell them… or put them in a vase and adorn your home with their bright colors and fabulous scents? Or even better… might the blossoms be beckoning you to eat them?! Well, why not? Edible flowers are a wonderful way to bring a variety of flavor to a culinary dish. They can also be used as a fun and creative way to add garnish and beauty to any meal.

Each week, I pick up a basket of fresh vegetables from local growers. On one particular week, a small bouquet of tiny, white and yellow flowers was placed on the top of my beautiful red and green vegetables. My first thought was, "How sweet. It must be a sign of their appreciation for me as their customer." But after researching it a little further, I realized the flowers were actually part of my basket of produce. They were, in fact, chamomile flowers. And as I dug deeper into the produce, I also discovered long stems of white flowers, also known as flowering snap peas (close to a sweet pea). I was intrigued! So, I immediately started researching ways to use these two flowers in my cooking

© Jessica Ceason Photography

I found that chamomile has a faint apple flavor and has a great use in tea. Once ingested, it creates a calming effect. Many drink chamomile tea shortly before bedtime in order to wind down at the end of a long day, and is one of the most widely used and safest herbs. It can be used for teething babies, inflammatory diseases and even can be added to shampoo or skincare products. For me? I used a few to garnish the breakfast waffles I made this morning and am currently drying the rest to crush up for my own loose-leaf tea.

As for the flowering snap pea blossoms, I chopped them up and used it in our dinner salad. It tasted mild and sweet and had a soft texture. While it can be used as a garnish, it was fun eating an actual blossom on top of our salad. When I fed it to my husband — it was fun to watch as he stabbed a bud with his fork and gave me a puzzled look as if I was feeding him like a goat. It sure didn't stop him from gobbling down the weeds, greens and blossoms.

We are happening on a hot time of year. If you are like me, you'll be hoping to take trips to the park or beach. You'll be planning to spend time with family, or watch the fireflies in the evening from your back porch. While you are doing this, think of sipping some floral-infused beverages. Try iced herbal teas made from flowers, such as chamomile or hibiscus. Try adding a handful of rose petals to water, allowing it to infuse for a few hours, thereby creating a summery scent and refreshing beverage to enhance your palette. Pansies add beautiful colors of orange, yellow and purple to cold sorbets and is a great garnish for any dish.


Refreshing Dandelion Lemonade

Dandelion leaves are a perfect, yet often overlooked flower to make cold lemonade, and like other edible flowers, have health benefits, such as helping to relieve headaches, menstrual cramps, backaches, stomachaches and depression.

  • 2 quarts dandelion flowers
  • Juice of 4 lemons
  • Enough water to fill glass jar
  • Honey (about 1/2 - 1 cup)

Go outside and gather about 2 quarts of dandelion flowers for each gallon of lemonade. Place in a colander and rinse the flowers of any dirt or debris. Place them all inside a glass gallon jar.

Juice 4 lemons and add to the jar. Fill the rest of the jar with room temperature water. Add fresh honey to taste. Chill for 4-6 hours.

Strain flowers through a colander, or leave inside to fall into each glass when serving.

© Jessica Ceason Photography

Lavender - Violet Sorbet

Lavender has a slightly perfumed flavor, and violet has a nectar-like taste. When both flowers are teamed up, they make for a delectable treat. You must try this sorbet recipe. You will not be disappointed.

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lavender flowers (if unavailable use 2 Tablespoons dried lavender)
  • 1/2 cup violets (if unavailable use purple pansies)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Pour one cup of water into a saucepan. Add 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 4 minutes, swirling pan occasionally. Remove from heat.

Put the chopping blade in your food processer. Add lavender and 1/4 cup sugar and process for 3 minutes, or until flowers and sugar are blended and in tiny pieces. Add lavender mixture to mixture in saucepan and combine well. Let mixture stand for at least one hour at room temperature.

Strain mixture and set aside. In a nonmetallic saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. Remove from heat. Add violets. Steep violets in water for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain mixture through cheesecloth and then squeeze cheesecloth to release blue color. Blend lavender syrup with the violet water.

Add lime juice to mixture. Freeze in an ice-cream maker.

You'd be surprised at how many very common flowers are safe to eat, but it is important to learn about many of them before consuming them, especially to find those that might be poisonous. You can go to this link for a comprehensive list of many edible flowers and many of the things they can be used for. http://homecooking.about.com/library/weekly/blflowers.htm