To decorate a tart or a charlotte, to enrich a risotto or a sauce, flowers can give a particular taste to our dishes and a refined, cheerful, fresh and refined aesthetic.
As with all spontaneous plants that are harvested, especially as regards the flowers found in the fields, it is always important to be 100% sure that you know how to recognize them and not improvise, but rely on competent people who have studied them thoroughly, to do not confuse them with unfortunate consequences for our health!
Some types of flowers in the kitchen can be used in fresh spring-summer. Or in the other seasons, dried flowers are used, possibly at 40 ° C to preserve their properties. In this way, even in winter you can have a touch of color in your dishes.
A basic precaution foresees that, if spontaneous, flowers grown in areas free of pollutants (do not pick them on the roadside!) And away from the passage of dogs, cats or other animals are used. If grown, they have not been treated with fertilizers or pesticides, but have been grown with the intent of being eaten.
To overcome all the above problems, I suggest you rely on the many companies that are emerging, dedicated to edible flowers. If you do a quick online search, I'm sure you'll also find some near your home or have an e-commerce service.
Below are examples of edible flowers and related recipes. Often these are not vegetarian or vegan dishes, because they are traditional recipes. However, I thought of bringing them back to you anyway as a testimony of the past and because with a little creativity you can rethink them in a vegetable key, or you can simply take inspiration from a way of using the flower and decline it as you please.
Mallow (flowers and leaves)
Raw in salads, the leaves cooked in soups or risottos.
Nasturtium (flowers and leaves)
Slightly spicy flavor. Flowers can be used to season pan-fried preparations or as an edible decoration (due to the beautiful bright color). The leaves can flavor omelettes and farin-omelettes (chickpea porridge or other legumes)
Primroses (flowers and leaves)
With a sweetish taste, the leaves are used raw in salads. In fact, they have the advantage of not losing volume once seasoned. Flowers can also be added to salads to add a touch of color, or to finished dishes as a decorative element. They can also be used to make a delicious relaxing herbal tea.
Sweet, sour and strongly aromatic, they are mainly used in sweet preparations to embellish raw pies, chiffon cakes or other types of cake. They are also popular as a seasoning in the most commercial productions (think of candies or licorice). They can be used to make jams or are candied.
Dandelion flower (or wild chicory, or dandelion)
It has always been used in many preparations. The still closed bud is treated like a pickle and is called "dandelion capers". Open flowers, on the other hand, are used for example in omelettes, stews, pancakes and served as a side dish, raw in salads.
With the flowers, a particular jam is also made which is called "vegan honey", very sweet and with a color similar to honey.
The use of the rose in the kitchen is a legacy of Constantinople, and it arrived in Italy through merchant traffic, in particular in Genoa and Venice. It is used in the form of water or syrup to flavor many sweet preparations (the syrup has also been a Slow Food presidium for some years). In particular, the oldest varieties are used: moss centifolia or damascena (on the island of the Armenians in Venice they still produce damask rose jam). You can use the fresh leaves in salads or risottos (the one with rose petals and almonds is good), to refresh drinks, to decorate savory and sweet dishes. Or you can use the dried buds in tea and herbal tea.
With a marked and persistent flavor and aroma, flowers are used to flavor fresh bread, to flavor fruit in fruit salads, honey to give it a particular aroma and many sweet preparations such as creams. It is also used to make infusions. We will use it to make a vinaigrette to be used to dress the salad or to enrich fresh tomini, cow's milk ricotta or "ricotta" with almonds and soy.
The flowers are used in salads, the leaves can enrich soups and soups. The most famous recipe is the Pratense clover flan, where the clover, once boiled, is added to béchamel, eggs and Parmesan cheese and then baked again.
Shamrock - Ireland symbol
It has leaves similar to clover. It is added to other wild herbs (such as chicory and borage) and eaten as a side dish. The stem is also used in salads to replace vinegar, due to the similarity of flavor in fact the name sorrel: from oxalis, Greek oxys = sharp, pungent and hals = salt, due to the acid flavor.
The term derives from the Latin borra, which means rough wool. You can eat both stewed leaves, in omelettes or very good in risottos, and flowers, fresh and dried, to embellish sweet and savory dishes, salads. If you want to give a particular color to white wine vinegar, you can leave the borage flowers to infuse, which will thus give their nuance.
The flowers are used to give the typical "saffron yellow" color to risottos and other dishes. The floral buttons are preserved in vinegar, as for dandelions.
Other commonly used flowers are:
elderberry (syrup); wisteria (sweet pancakes); jasmine (tea, scented water, sorbets) but strictly not the berries; cornflower (omelettes, or as a seasoning because it tastes similar to artichoke); poppy (leaves that in Italy we called rosolaccio or rosolina).
Here if you want to know more about this:
... and some Italian books
L. Origlia, Cucinare con i fiori. 200 ricette per squisiti piatti naturali e diversi, Milano, 2001
L. Marenghi, Cucinare con i fiori. Centouno ricette profumate, Torino, 1997
La cucina dei fiori. Ovvero l’arte di degustarli in 88 ricette, Milano, 2000.
Ph. 1 credits: Timothy Dykes
Ph. 2 is mine: millet cooked for absorption, cream of cicerchie and dried tomatoes by Praline
, black sesame, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes and lavender flowers.