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Say it with flowers

Valentine’s Day is a little bit like Marmite – you either love the chance to be romantic for a day or you hate the commerciality of it. One group of people who must surely love Valentine’s Day is florists. I’m guessing that today and Mother’s Day are amongst their most profitable of the year.

Here’s an impromptu Valentine’s Day rhyme:

Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

They both look great

But they taste good too

Not all flowers have to be destined for a vase or water or a block of foam. Lately there appears to be something of a revival of edible flowers, with various elegant establishments offering rose water meringues or lavender cream. Many master confectioners already produce rose and violet crème chocolates and rose flavoured Turkish delight. And who hasn’t been given rose hip syrup as a toddler?

But did you know that you can pep up a salad with some pansies or dandelions, or put the finishing touch to a celebratory cake with some crystallised lilac? Courgette flowers also taste good deep-fried and nasturtium buds can be pickled and used as an alternative to capers. Refreshing drinks can also be made from flowers – elderflower cordial, dandelion and burdock, chamomile or hibiscus tea. Edible flowers, many of which are the flowers of herb plants, can also be used as decoration or a garnish.

A list of edible flowers can be found here but as with many other foods, you need to be mindful of allergens  – for example primroses, whilst on the edible flowers list can cause contact dermatitis in some. As a precaution, if you or anyone you are preparing food for are susceptible to allergies or suffer from asthma it’s best to steer clear of using flowers in food.

For others, you need to be careful in their preparation. In the majority of cases it is only the petals which can be consumed safely. Heavily scented roses are the most flavoursome, but you need to make sure that you remove the bitter white portion before you serve them up. Also, unless the flowers are from your own garden, be aware that pesticides may have been used during the growing process and select only flowers that are disease-free and have not been attacked by insects.

So now that you know that a Valentine’s Day bouquet of roses is flowers and a meal in one, why not start experimenting? Here are some recipes to get you started

If floral food isn’t quite your cup of chamomile tea, why not check out our online nutrition course instead?

If you are interested in learning more about unusual flavours and how to create them and develop new products why not try our course in Understanding Flavours? Next course 3-4 April 2012 in Skipton. This new course which is a combination of lab work and lectures is ideal for trainee and junior flavourists.

Contact Claire Lennon on 01756 700802 or email claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk for further details on any of our courses.