Eat More Flowers
As evidenced by the famed photo of Elizabeth Taylor holding a flower, there’s something both glamorous and timeless about a blossom garnish. It’s old-school, yes, but it also seems current (unlike gold leaf)—because flowers are the essence of what’s fresh, and new, and right now. They’re the embodiment of spring cooking.
And we’ve been seeing a lot of them these days, at eateries as far-flung as David Kinch’s Manresa in California and Sean Brock’s McCrady’s in South Carolina. Chefs and home cooks coast-to-coast have been taking advantage of edible flowers. Look for them in grocery stores, packaged in plastic near the fresh herbs, at specialty grocers, online, and dotting farmer’s market stalls.
We spoke to Tyler Gray of Mikuni Wild Harvest, who supplies four-star restaurants nationwide. In addition to specialty items like basil-fed snails, Gray offers dozens of edible flowers. Below are his top 10 biggest sellers, in all their fully-bloomed glory, plus a recipe from Food & Wine Best New Chef Justin Cogley of California’s Aubergine, whom Gray supplies.
Keep an eye peeled for edible flora at the farmers market, use this handy USDA site to find out if they’re local to you, and consider them the next time a plate needs a touch of spring glamour, a certain je ne sais quoi. (And psst, Mother’s Day!)
PansyPhoto credit: StockFood, Misha Vetter
Thanks to their “mildly tangy flavor” and “lovely velvety texture,” Gray says, these are a favorite among mixologists.
Along with pansies, these blooms top the popularity list, according to one of Gray’s suppliers. Gray tells us: “The blossoms are not quite as spicy as the green; they’re slightly sweet with a peppery, spicy finish.” He sees them in both savory and sweet applications, from pizza toppings to candied garnishes.
Photo credit: StockFood, Nikolai Buroh
"Intensely sweet and striking in appearance, with a multitude of shades," says Gray, these are "most often seen [on] desserts."
Slightly different from violets, violas are “tart….beautiful, but tart!” Use them on super-sweet desserts, for balance.
Photo credit: StockFood, Eising Studio