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From The Ground Up: Tasty Spices And Garnishes Right In Your Own Backyard

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Back in the Garden Of Eden its inhabitants were supposed to dine on plants, flowers and herbs, and it seems that, that philosophy is making its way into mainstream modern-day meals and menus. In fact, more and more seasoned chefs are spicing things up with earthly herbs and are garnishing their creations with edible plants and flowers.

But when it comes to adding a bouquet of flavor to your food and fare, it’s imperative to be aware of which are safe and which are not.

According to the experts, the safest and most edible flowers include nasturtiums, pansies, violets, Johnny-jump-ups, calendulas, chives, and sage. These they note can be easily grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides.

Experts add that also among the most flavorful florals are some roses, tulips, marigolds and others, (but all must be grown organically). And, they add, if you don’t know whether or not a plant or flower is edible, is best to remove it from your recipe.

Here’s a look at just some palatable plants and flowers for you to savor:

Pansies: Offer a slightly minty flavor, they are found in a variety of colors spanning the spectrum; they are ideal for making foods not only flavorful but fanciful and colorful. Experts suggest planning (your party) in advance so that you can get a head start on planting and matching colors to the season and décor.

Nasturtiums: These flowers are bright yellow, orange, and red, as well as some muted tones and bicolors. According to experts both leaves and flowers are edible and add a pepper flavor to foods. They are best eaten raw, tossed into salads.

Roses: These delicate blooms also have a fairly delicate taste. They are generally tasteless but may offer a sweet, perfumes or slightly spicy zest to familiar fare. Experts suggest chopping up the petals and allowing them to steep in sugar, letting the mixture infuse for a week, them using for baking and desserts.

Borage: These star shaped florals almost fall off the plant when they are “ripe” They have a mild cucumber flavor and make a delicious addition to lemonade.

Tulips: Tulips vary in taste ranging from pea-like to bean-like….and these cruciferous petals are a great low-cal replacement for chips and dip.

Think Pinks: These dianthus family flowers offer a sweet clove-like taste. However, experts caution against removing individual petals or eating them whole. Instead they suggest infusing petals in water and making tea, placing a few petals on top of a cracker with cheese, or use to make a sensational sorbet.
Tangerine Gem Marigold: These and other Gem hybrids are among the only palatable petals in this variety. Offering a citrus, tarragon flavor, the petals are great in recipes such as deviled eggs.

Lilacs: These purple petals have a grassy, “perfumed” infusion and are ideal for chicken dished and fruit salads.

Experts caution against eating or adding flowers to your foods or diet if your have asthma, hay fever or other allergies. They also recommend removing the pistils, anthers, and stamens before eating any blooms.

Furthermore, they advise NEVER eating flowers from a nursery, garden center or florist, since they are likely to contain chemical residue.

It’s also important to note that the various varieties of flowers offers slight variations on taste, as do growing conditions, and while you may like some, you may not be too fond of others.

More Flavorable Flowers:

· Anise hyssop
· Apple
· Bee balm
· Broccoli
· Chamomile
· Chives
· Dandelion
· Daylilies
· Holyhock
· Honeysuckle
· Mustard
· Pineapple guava
· Pineapple sage
· Rosemary
· Sage
· Scented geraniums
· Sweet Woodruff
· Thyme
· Tuberous begonias
· Violets
· Yucca

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