On more than one occasion, I have been accused of being a hippie.The finger is usually pointed by my children after one of my long-winded dissertations on the importance of recycling, composting, and energy conservation. I do not take offense at being called a hippie, but I remind them that I missed that boat and had I been born earlier, I would have fit right into a culture that protested war with the power of flowers.
Flowers do indeed have power; they evoke emotions, trigger memories, convey language, and stimulate the senses. The latter is usually associated with sight and smell, but flowers also have flavor.
Roses belong to the family Rosaceae which includes raspberries, strawberries, cherries and almonds, and are all aroma with tender, mildly sweet petals. Violets contain ionone, a flavor compound that is also shared by carrots. Jasmine contains indole, which is also present in liver. Carnations have a distinct spicy clove flavor. Pansies taste grassy, with hints of wintergreen. Hibiscus have an acidic flavor that is reminiscent of cranberries. Daylilies are mildly sweet with melon and pear tones. Chamomile tastes like green apples. In contrast, Nasturtiums are pungent and peppery. Herb flowers usually mimic the flavors found in their leaves, in a milder and sweeter version. Most fruit and vegetable flowers are edible and, in fact, broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes are actually flowers.
The history of cooking with flowers can be traced back thousands of years. Dandelions were one of the bitter herbs in the Old testament. The oldest surviving cookbook by the Roman Apicius featured a recipe for brains with rose petals. And the Victorians were fond of decorating confections with violets and pansies.
Modern chefs are rediscovering the power of flowers. In Spain, Ferran Adria uses the flavor of flowers prominently in his evolving collections of thought-provoking dishes. In his Papel de Flores, (Flower Paper), he traps begonias, marigolds and herb flowers in cotton candy, or spun sugar, and compresses it to form an edible paper. In another dish, he covers a pistachio salad with caramelized rosemary honey air and up to 14 varieties of flower petals. Quique Dacosta of el Poblet infuses prawn stock with rose petals and texturized rose water in his celebrated Red Denia Prawn dish. Jordi Roca, the pastry chef at El Celler de Can Roca draws inspiration for his desserts from popular perfumes such as Calvin Klein's Eternity and Lancome's Tresor by isolating the notes and recreating them with flavors on a plate. His Eternity dish is made up of vanilla cream, basil sauce, fresh and frozen mandarin, orange blossoms, maple syrup, and bergamot ice cream. When these components are eaten together, they evoke the scent of the perfume.
With a veritable garden of flowers at our disposal, waiting to be tasted and put to culinary use, is it just a matter of time before the consumption of flowers becomes as common as that of vegetables and herbs? That was a question that I recently posed to a chef/friend, who also happens to be a male. His reply and the ensuing conversation went like this:
"that'll never happen."
"real men don't eat flowers"
"that's absurd...try telling that to Adria, Aduriz, Dacosta, and others. Aren't they real men?"
"no...they are culinary gods."
So...according to my chef/friend, only girls and gods eat flowers...that's good enough for me.
spring flower salad
almond milk cream