Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue - And Guess What, They Taste Good Too
February 9, 2001
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Adventurous souls looking for a unique way to express their love this Valentine’s Day might want to give the object of their affection a large bouquet of roses — as a side dish.
Rose petals can make a sweet and colorful addition to a romantic, candlelight dinner, according to a University of Florida agricultural marketing expert.
“Rose petals can be added as a garnish to a salad, steeped in water for a tea or crystallized as a sweet dessert,” said Suzanne Stapleton, an extension agent with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “The best quality flowers for consumption are young and fresh.
“Once you’ve taken the time to enjoy a bouquet of flowers, it’s pretty much past its moment as far as flavor is concerned,” she said. “What you would want to do is instead of looking at the roses, remove the petals, rinse them and pat them dry with a paper towel.”
Stapleton cautioned consumers to eat only flowers that were produced for that purpose and to avoid flowers from retail florists or roadside stands where they may have been treated with chemicals not intended for consumption. Anyone wanting to buy roses or other flowers to eat should purchase them directly from an organic farm or from a farmer or gardener who has raised the flowers to sell as food, she said.
According to Stapleton, petals from all varieties of roses are edible, as are other flowers commonly given as gifts. While roses impart a sweet taste, other flowers, such as nasturtium blossoms, have a peppery flavor.
“Roses and other flowers generally taste similar to their fragrance, or in the case of herb flowers they taste similar to the leaf of the plant,” said Stapleton. “Most herbs that we use in the kitchen produce edible flowers, such as garlic, chive, dill, mint, sage and thyme.
“For some flowers, it is important to eat only the petals to avoid the bitter taste found in the rest of the flower,” she said.
Other common edible flowers include carnations, which have a spicy flavor like clove; daylily buds, which are crunchy; and marigold petals, which are used more for coloring than flavor.
Stapleton said teas can be made from a variety of flower petals, including hibiscus and mint. Rose water has been used by women worldwide as a face wash, she said. Flowers such as citrus and lavender have been long been used in perfumes or bath waters, she added.
While Americans may not be familiar with the tasty qualities of their favorite cut flowers, Stapleton said, other cultures have their favorite flower recipes.
“Several cultures around the world have traditionally consumed particular flowers, for example batter-fried squash blossoms and stir-fried tiger lily buds, so this is not a completely new trend,” Stapleton said. “There are some commercial producers in Central Florida that produce greens for the Asian market, and one of the crops they grow is chrysanthemums.”
Stapleton works with farmers in North Florida to develop markets for alternative crops, including edible flowers. In a greenhouse at the university’s North Florida Research and Education Center in Live Oak, Fla., she is growing nasturtiums, marigolds and violas — also known as Johnny-jump-ups. One of Stapleton’s marketing programs, The Chef Connection, is linking farmers with local restaurants.
“Area chefs are very enthusiastic about using locally grown products, including edible flowers, herbs, vegetables and fruits,” Stapleton said.
One Gainesville chef said the cost of edible flowers needs to come down before they will be found on his menus on a regular basis.
“Right now I use edible flowers only for specialty dishes because they can be cost prohibitive,” said Bert Gill, executive chef at Mildred’s Big City Food. “Through The Chef’s Connection, we are trying to build the market and increase the demand for local and regional foods.”
Stapleton said that because edible flowers are highly perishable, they are not widely available. Consumers may occasionally find edible flowers in gourmet markets or at their local community or farmers’ market, she said.
Editor’s Note: Recipe for candied flower petals follows.
CRYSTALLIZED FLOWER PETALS
1 large egg white
1 tbsp water
½ cup sugar
handful of flower petals: rose, violets, borage, nasturtium, marigold or citrus
Beat egg white in water until foamy. Use a small paintbrush to paint flower petals.
Dip petals into sugar. Allow petals to dry overnight on waxed paper.
Uses: Use to decorate desserts or as a salad garnish.
Recipe courtesy Suzanne Stapleton, UF/IFAS Extension Agent