A Feast of Flowers

Bringing fresh blooms to the tea table

Text by Susanna Report Brill • Photography by John O’Hagan

From East to West since ancient times, flowers, which we often think of as purely decorative, have been used as food. There is record of the nasturtiums being eaten as early as 400 B.C. Hernán Cortés wrote of flowers being consumed in Mexico City in the 16th century. In the 18th century, roses were a flavoring as popular as vanilla, and during the Victorian era, it was quite common to harvest and distill flowers for flavor and medicine. Today, we use flowers such as broccoli, cauliflower, and artichoke as vegetables. Jasmine tea is scented with fresh jasmine flowers. Sambuca liqueur is made with elderflowers, and zucchini flowers are sold in Mediterranean markets. Flowers can also be used to create a unique teatime experience. They can make a simple dish unusual and very elegant.

There are a large variety of edible flowers: roses, tulips, Johnny-jump-ups, daylilies, impatiens, petunias, pansies, hollyhocks, and dianthus, just to name a few. Additionally, all the culinary herb blossoms, such as chives, rosemary, sage, dill, cilantro, basil, oregano, savory, and thyme, are edible. It is important to note, however, that not all flowers are edible.

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