When I was a little girl, my mother taught me which of the plants and flowers in our yard were edible*. Day lilies, violets, clover, and nasturtium were summer snacks. Squash had tasty blossoms, and herbs would burst into a lush profusion of colorful buds that we’d eat right off the stem, standing in the garden, oblivious to the aphids we were also consuming by the handful (protein supplement!). It’s a memory of peaceful days, with full, happy stomachs and summer seemingly stretching off forever.
Thanks in part to this early training by my mom, and in part to a love for armchair primatology (we are primates after all), part of my perception of Paleo is this: If it was edible and it was gettable, it was eaten. Imagine my happiness when I was in Safeway yesterday and found they are now stocking mixed edible flowers, which to me is a winning combination of happy memories and plain old good ape sense. I immediately getted them. 🙂
My local Safeway has been nervous ever since a brand new Whole Foods opened up less than a mile away. They’ve had to dance quite a bit to keep us snobby San Francisco customers from wandering off to WF to buy our greenwashed goods. We now have a (very tiny) selection of grass fed and organic meats and produce, and they are adding other little things like the edible flowers. (Someone tell them they’re still clueless about coconut oil and coconut milk — the preservative- and additive-laden, highly-processed junk they’re stocking is completely missing the point. And the sale.)
The first thing I did with my flowers was make a quick and simple salad. A pretty flower-topped salad should lean towards the sweet and delicate end of things when it comes to components. I stayed away from what I usually stick in my salad (heavy things with more of an umami flavor, such as mushrooms and cheddar cheese), because I didn’t want to overbalance and lose the taste of the blossoms. I started with a simple base of mixed baby greens, and added cucumber slices and fresh, halved strawberries. Cherry tomatoes rounded out the mix, with a handful of cashews for a bit of crunch. A sprinkle of salt, of course.
For dressing, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a splash of olive oil. Balsamic is perfect for strawberries and did well with the light taste of the flowers. As you can see, we pretty much polished this yummy salad off in short order:
I very much recommend edible flowers, especially if you’ve never had them. Like the plants they grow on, they’re not only delicious, they’re filled with vitamins and phyto-awesomeness.
Trivia: Marigolds are sometimes used in chicken feed to turn egg yolks a darker shade of orange, a bit of tricky greenwashing that makes the eggs have similar color to eggs from pastured hens. On the up side, the compound responsible for the color is lutein, which may protect eyesight from age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Orange yolks are good for you!
I still have a half-package of flowers to do something creative with. If you’ve used edible flowers in your cooking, how did you do it? What’s your favorite recipe? Let me know!
* my mom also taught us which plants were poisonous or would give us upset stomachs. Good primate lessons in the yard.