It was during the steamy days of summer that I gave a thorough test drive to a review copy of Eat Your Roses: Pansies, Lavender and 49 Other Delicious Edible Flowers by Denise Schreiber (St. Lynn's Press, 2011). This great kitchen and garden reference is handily bound with a sturdy wire spiral binding so that it lays flat to each page enabling the reader to tote it about during the harvest, cooking or even the selection of one's garden seedlings.
I learned so much from this book and was pleasantly surprised to learn that many of the vegetables and herbs that I let flower on after the main harvest are still able to provide food and garnish for my table. Those radishes that inevitably get past me with their growth spurts are still able to provide snappy salad toppings with their pale pink and purple blossoms. Those deep blue and purple bachelors buttons that I let reseed themselves in bits of my vegetable garden because they arere just so darn pretty and feed the pollinating insects also fed my family for the first time, strewn over our summer salads. And who knew lilac blooms were edible? I grow a stand just for its heavenly scent and color, but next Spring some lilacs will migrate into my cream cheese to be spread on a cracker for a pre-prandial snack.
Schreiber's book is loaded with color photos and each page is devoted to a different edible flower. Organized alphabetically, the book gives descriptions of how to grow, harvest and prepare each plant and also gives cautionary advice about some of their health impacts (i.e., don't consume chamomile if you are taking blood thinners). A recipe section at the back lists many scrumptious and unusual dishes that will appeal to all five senses, including Fresh Salsa with Pineapple and Nasturtiums, Watermelon and Feta Salad and Lemon Verbena Salmon.
My tastiest use of this informative book was in experimenting with squash blossoms. I had a healthy zucchini crop this summer (only three plants) with plenty of blossoms available during the really hot spells. Schreiber's book notes that "squash flowers can be stuffed with cheeses and other fillings, battered and deep fried or sauteed and added to pasta". The trick with the squash flowers is to get the male flowers (the ones without a bulbous base that indicates that a baby zucchini is on the way) when they have just started to open, as they are rather fragile and get raggedy even after a day in the sunshine. The other trick is to avoid getting stung by a bee while picking them, as they are also very attractive to the Insect Kingdom. I found that early morning, when the cold-blooded bees are still drowsy and slow, was the best time to swoop in and steal them.
I don't often have great frying success, so rather than battering and frying my blossoms, I gently rinsed and patted them dry, then laid them on a parchment-lined baking tray. I mixed up a little softened goat cheese with salt, pepper and some chopped fresh summer savory and gently stuffed my squash blossoms. I then gave my flowers a good spritz of olive oil. I popped them in the toaster oven and broiled them for a few minutes on each side, until the tops browned and the cheese started to melt.
They were decadently good and we indulged in this little snack several times over the next few weeks, subbing in cream cheese and basil and rosemary, when the goat cheese ran out and we wanted a different herb flavor. They are also terrific with a little fresh marinara on the side.
If you enjoy cooking from the garden, foraging your own grub or interesting kitchen experiments, you will want to buy your own copy of Eat Your Roses. You can purchase one at the St. Lynn's Press website ($16.95) or your favorite bookstore.
Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but was under no obligation to post a review. My comments, as always, are my own.