Like much of the arts and pop culture scene at the moment, the culinary world is also currently obsessed with all things earth-friendly, renewable, and au-naturale. Thus it comes as no surprise that gorgeous, delectable, edible flowers are appearing on menus at top hotspots, on the accounts of our fave foodie Instagramers, and also in condo container gardens of many young professionals (YPs). To learn more about this fabulous foodie fad, we hooked up with two top chefs, executive restaurant chef Alex Svenne and personal chef Rob Thomas. Not just a garnish anymore, if you want to wow dinner party guests or impress your next date, check out these 7 edible (and drinkable) flowers and just how to use them:
1. Nasturtium: Chef Alex’s favourite flower, the nasturtium has a nice citrus hit and a peppery spice. The fun thing about nasturtiums, he says, “is that the brighter the flower, the spicier it will be.” For a nasturtium as spicy as a jalapeño, look for bright orange. For a milder taste, go with light yellow. “Put them in a cream sauce for chicken,” he recommends, “or mix them with butter and spread on fresh baked bread; or chop them up and mix with coarse sea salt for a great steak spice.” You can even infuse nasturtiums in tequila for a spicy margarita.
2. Lavender: This classic aromatic flower is making a huge comeback. No longer just the scent of your granny’s bubble bath, chef Rob suggests using the sweet subtle flavours of lavender in teas, drinks, and desserts (mmm, lemon lavender scones). We at Notable love a little lavender in our infused water.
3. Begonias: “Juicy, citrusy, with a flavour reminiscent of rhubarb,” chef Alex says about begonias, which work well chopped up and sprinkled on fish and seafood or mixed into butters for a zippy spread. Begonia petals can also be muddled to make a unique martini.
4. Squash Blossoms: Both chefs believe the best way to use these big tasty blossoms is to stuff them. “I like to stuff them with goat cheese,” says chef Alex. “Lightly batter and fry.” Chef Rob adds a little jalapeno. Delish! And if you have your own garden, chef Alex suggests taking your piping bag full of filling out to the garden, fill, then cut the flower off the plant. The petals will close up around the filling. Both chefs also recommend removing the stamen and pistil before using because, as with many edible flowers, it can be quite bitter.
5. Geraniums: These colourful beauties have a wide variety of flavours, ranging from citrusy, to minty, to spicy. Chef Alex suggests playing around with the different varieties, then tossing them into suitable salads to boost both flavour and presentation.
6. Hibiscus: Tart, similar to cranberry, chef Rob suggests using dried hibiscus in teas, and the fresh variety in desserts. He also says that the tea can be used to make distinctive simple syrup for a cool twist on a cocktail.
7. Borage: These blossoms are a beautiful shade of blue and taste a lot like cucumber. Subsequently, they work well atop chilled soups, tossed into salads, or served with chicken or fish. They also make a beautiful addition to a trendy tea service, as chef Alex points out: “I like to make open-faced cucumber, cream cheese and borage blossom sandwiches, or chop up the blossoms and leaves into goat cheese for a creative addition to a cheese board.” And for a drink of the more venomous variety, try Hendricks gin, St. Germaine, lime juice, and muddled borage blossom. Float a couple flowers on the finished cocktail for a beautiful look.