Another preservation technique is to crystallize or candy the flowers. This method works best with sturdy flowers, such as pansies and violets. It is harder to do with small or delicate petaled blooms, such as impatiens or chives. To crystallize the flowers, whisk 2 teaspoons meringue powder with 2 tablespoons water. With a clean, small paintbrush, coat the flowers with the meringue, and then lightly sprinkle with superfine white granulated sugar. Allow the flowers to air-dry for 24 to 30 hours on wax paper. Crystallized flowers can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 months. Candying the flowers is also necessary if you plan to use fresh flowers on a dessert that will be on display for an extended length of time, such as a wedding cake. In addition to keeping the flowers from wilting, it prevents the blossoms from absorbing the oils from the icing.
The fun of using edible flowers is the element of surprise. They are a joy to work with and always bring exclamations of delight from guests. It is, however, important to use only organic flowers, none that have been sprayed. Only use flowers you know to be edible, such as the ones in this article, and never even garnish with flowers that are harmful. If you follow these guidelines, your culinary foray into feasting with flowers—whether for afternoon tea or beyond—will be a success.
Susanna Reppert Brill, owner of The Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, is usually found drinking chai in the garden. Visit therosemaryhouse.com for more information.