Celebrating Spring with Edible Flowers!
A group of our Wholistic Nutrition Program (WNP3) students hosted an information packed community event in March. Students had information booths on topics ranging from DIY personal hygiene products to honey to wheatgrass to one of the evening’s favorites, Edible Flowers. WNP3 student, Jyn Watson, was responsible for the very seasonally appropriate Spring booth. Samples at Jyn’s booth included dandelion syrup, rose water, creamy avocado dip in tulip petals and pickled magnolia blossoms. Yum!
We were inspired by Jyn’s contribution, whose recipes were both creative and delicious; we wanted to hear more! Read on to learn more from Jyn and the inspiration behind her exploration on Edible Flowers!
What inspired you to research Edible Flowers?
I would consider myself to be an adventurous eater and I get really excited about exploring and learning new things. I am an artist at heart and the opportunity to combine beauty and nature with food inspired me.
I remember as a little girl I enjoyed the honey-like flavor of the little purple clovers that popped up in the yard, somehow I knew I could eat them. Still to this day I will notice the smell of clover when I am driving with my windows down in the country and it brings a smile to my face and a fond memory to mind.
I was aware some flowers were edible but not to extent of the amount I learned in the process of working on my project.
What was your process like during each recipe you’ve chosen?
I chose the recipes based on what was in bloom during the time of the event. It was a little too early for a project on edible flowers, not a lot was blooming yet. I called many farms and stores in the Portland area for availability with no luck. I found a couple online sources but they were very expensive. I chose to get a couple dried flowers to get a few recipes started the week before so I knew I would have something to present. The dried flowers inspired the rose water recipe and I tried a butter recipe that included dried chrysanthemums, and calendula. The weekend prior my kids and I walked around our yard picking all the dandelions for the dandelion syrup recipe. We picked about 2 quarts. I was surprised how easy the dandelion syrup was to make. We cut the bottom of the flower away from the stem and peeled the green part off around the petals. All the petals went into a pot of water, and after it was brought to a boil for about a minute, it was covered and left to sit overnight to steep. The tulips started blooming just a couple of days before class, that is what inspired the recipe of tulip petals filled with avocado. The crunch and the freshness of the tulip leaf reminded me of a butter lettuce. The flowers fit into cooking so easily just like any other fruit or vegetable really.
How did you source your flowers?
It was really difficult to find flowers that I knew were safe to eat. The flowers in the grocery stores and nurseries are all full of fertilizers and pesticides to make them large and full of color if not raised organically. Since they are not considered a food item there are no regulations on the types of chemicals used on them, which is clearly a potential health risk. I found the best source is our own yards. I will be incorporating more edible flowers as I am gardening this season.
What was the most rewarding aspect of sharing your work and research with your fellow students and Wellspring community?
I enjoy sharing new information and inspiration with others, their delight and surprise is very rewarding. People seemed curious and a few said they were going to give some of the recipes a try. For most people it was the first time experiencing the flavors of flowers and it was exciting to see their response and most of the time pleasant surprise of how yummy they were and the uniqueness of the flavors really stood out.
Was there anything surprising or interesting in regards to the energetic actions of the recipes you’ve chosen?
The entire dandelion plant has the potential to be used. It was surprising to learn all the energetic qualities and medicinal applications it has. The neighbor was mowing the lawn the other day when I pulled in and my first thought was all the potential of the dandelion offers but many of us are just not aware and we mow them down all the time and pull them out as an unsightly weed and toss them in the recycle container and compost piles.
Anything else you want to share with us?
I love what nature has to offer us; I love to forage and to teach my kids to forage. I find it somewhere deep in my nature to forage and it feels very rewarding and prideful when I am successful. I plan a Huckleberry picking trip every fall with my family, we all go up high in elevation in the Mt Hood area and pick buckets full of huckleberries. We bring them home and freeze them for year round use. We always have a huckleberry pie during the holidays. The experience to harvest from nature and share that experience with those that are close to you is deeply nourishing. I think the experience I gained through this project of finding flowers in my neighborhood with my kids and them joining me in putting the recipes together had that same prideful nourishing feeling. Of course tasting the dandelion syrup as we shared waffles gathered around our family dining room table was the best experience of all. And now the random question from my daughter now when she sees a flower in bloom, can we eat that one mom? We have a beautiful white orchid full of blooms in the window this morning, and while we are enjoying its exquisite beauty, I am looking up recipes for adding those blooms to a meal very soon so we can not only enjoy its beauty but benefit from its unique nutritional qualities next.
I appreciate the effort of utilizing what would not be used without intent, such as eating the whole animal. Most vegetable blooms are edible, and we typically do not think of eating the squash blossoms for example but there are some quite delicious recipes out there and I think I am just as excited for my squash blooms as I am the squash itself this season.
The most surprising thing during this project was that each flower really had such a unique flavor that was very present and surprisingly more pleasant than I expected. Also, it was so easy to include flowers in recipes. The process with most of the recipes started a day in advance steeping the flowers in hot water to extract the flavor similar to tea. I just left them on the stove covered overnight to steep and then proceeded with the recipes the next day.
I can not think of anything easier than throwing some blooms atop a fresh salad, you don’t even need to chop them up, just wash and toss them in. The vibrancy and freshness of a bloom sitting in the sun, and the benefits from the phytonutrients and Qi they contain is amazing.
My project really grew quite larger than I expected as it developed. It was fun and full of flavor, and has inspired me to continue trying new flower recipes as the season is just beginning.
Click the following links for PDF versions of Jyn’s delicious recipes!