Friday, April 16, 2010

Eat Your Flowers

In Chicago I don't declare it Springtime until I can see full-fledged leaves unfurling on the occasional tree. That being said, I think we've finally arrived to that time here.  I thought it might be a good opportunity, then, to do a little four-part series on flowers in food.  This is mostly just an excuse for me to buy roses for myself, perhaps, and to take pictures loaded with petal colors.  What can I say?  I'm a girl.

I'm not going to tell you what all of the recipes for this series are going to be, but I can tell you that they will include all of the flowers seen in the below photo, with each focusing on one or two in particular: Hibiscus, Violet, Rose, and Lavender were chosen to be the main players. Two of the dishes, including this first one, are savory.  The other two are desserts.

This first dish feels a little like an exception when you look at the pictures since I went a little wild buying a confetti pack of edible flowers of a dozen varieties to sprinkle on the finished salad.  The focus is supposed to be on the hibiscus flower vinaigrette, but I will admit that in the plated finish it's the look of a sea of wildflowers on the greens that steal the eye away from the deep plum-colored dressing.

Still, when it comes to flavor, the hibiscus' role reigns supreme.  There is a wonderful tart, fruitiness to these flowers that makes their tea perfect for dressing a salad, which is how I did it - by making a tea out of the dried flowers.  I found the flowers in a Persian shop near my home, but you could also use dry tea blends or hibiscus juice, even, which is available in health food stores, etc.  Just adjust things like honey or vinegar according to your tastes.

If you'd like to use the flowers, which are great for all kinds of things, like this amazing jam from Sanjana at KO Rasoi, here is a good source for them at a decent price.

I served this dressing over fresh organic mesclun mix with goat cheese croquettes (just goat cheese mixed with fresh chives and dredged in egg/flour mixture before a quick pan-fry) and mixed edible flowers.  The flowers should be labeled "edible" in florists or found in the fresh herb section of the grocers, and are grown without harmful pesticides.  If bought in packs, they often include certain varieties of chive flowers, marigolds, nasturtiums, etc.  They all have their own flavors that range from "nutty" to "citrusy", but tend to be subtle in flavor. 

Next week I'll share another fun recipe including flowers, I hope you'll stop by!

Recipe: Hibiscus Flower Vinaigrette

What you need to get...

1/2 cup hibiscus flowers
8 oz boiling water (to make a strong hibiscus tea)
3/4 cups olive oil
2 tablespoons thin-sliced shallots
Small handful of fresh tarragon, chopped
Small nob of fresh ginger, grated or minced very fine
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (red wine vinegar also works - if using balsamic, omit honey)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher/sea salt
Cracked pepper

What to do with it all...

Add your boiling water to your hibiscus flowers and allow to steep for 10 mins. Remove flowers and allow tea to cool to room temperature.

In a medium non metal bowl, combine the rest of your ingredients except the olive oil and allow them to "mingle" while the tea cools.  Once tea is cooled, whisk in.  Whisk in olive oil, adding in a steady stream until incorporated.  Store in refrigerator for at least an hour before use.

Makes 2 cups of dressing


  1. Oh this is so pretty! Thank you for the link :) I actually just made a flower dessert with roses which I plan to post soon :) It's no way near as pretty as this salad though. Aww, we're like a flower cooking club!

    p.s. i heart that fork.

  2. I have this recipe for rose conserve that I am dying to make.. thanks so much for the link. It looks so lovely!

  3. bunkycooksApril 16, 2010

    I keep seeing edible flowers in Whole Foods. Maybe I will give them a try!

  4. That flower salad with the hibiscus and marigolds looks gorgeous. such a nice idea for spring

  5. Beautiful salad! I made a green bean salad last summer that called for nasturtiums. We loved it.

  6. Yet another beautiful post ! It looks really good,can't wait for next weeks recipe.
    I love hibiscus, us Mexicans make a cold drink from it called "Agua de Jamaica" and it's so yummy!

  7. this salad does look beautiful! i'm interested to see what your others dishes are. flowers are one ingredient i'm hesitant to eat - the texture usually gets to me, but i have tried them and would eat them again. i saw a rose glazed doughnut on tv once and always wanted to try that, so maybe this would be the excuse i needed!

  8. This is super pretty. It is just like a flower garden on a plate.

  9. This makes me think you live in a perfect English garden wonderland. And egads, that frog jar is irresistable! I've been playing more with eating garden greens. Been having to thin out our vegetable rows and since many of the early greens are so young, they're sweet and work rather well in salads. Been enjoying young radish tops, sugar pea leaves, and even young shoots from hops.

  10. I totally agree with you. I also live in the Chicagoland area and I do not think winter is done until I see flowers. Your salad is beautiful. My mother would love it.

  11. hello mathea
    it is very difficult to find eatable flowers in france but I still look after some on fresh markets !! Pierre de Paris

  12. This sounds like something I have to try! I love how pretty hibiscus flowers are - I can only imagine how wonderful they taste!

  13. hi mathea this is very difficult to find eatable floweres in Paris !! Thanks anyway for the recipe !! Pierre in paris

  14. So unique, gorgeous presentation.....where have you been, havent seen you around in awhile? hope all is well..... :)

  15. I love your images and the artful presentation...

  16. Very cool article and great pictures too. The only flower I'm comfortable with is hibiscus and the cool, sweet Mexican drink Jamaica. Thanks for the info!

  17. oh this looks so fresh! I love all the colors!

  18. AnonymousMay 17, 2011

    Love the idea and look of edible flowers, must be a girl thing. Looking forward to trying this at my next girls brunch.

  19. They certainly make for amazing photos!


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