Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Guest Post: Seattle Seedling

I used to be the sort of gal who planted whatever, wherever. If it was pretty, or it smelled good, that was enough for me. Now, whenever I'm at the garden center, or perusing a seed catalogue, I find myself thinking "yeah, it's gorgeous, and yes, it smells good, but can I eat it?" My green thumb wants to enjoy beauty and fragrance and wild pollinator attraction, as well as satisfy my palate and my belly. Is that too much to ask for?

Well, if you think like me, or even if you don't but need some growing inspiration, Stacy Brewer of Seattle Seedling has got just the thing to get you started. Her post today explores culinary uses for edible flowers. Considering that the property Hubs and I live on was an organic flower and herb farm in its previous life, this post truly hits close to home!

Edible Flowers - Think Outside the Flower Pot
Stacy Brewer

"I hosted a game night pot luck the other night and one of my friends made an amazing vegan fruit tart. She recounted that when she was making it, her soon-to-be-husband said, "Wow! You're making that tart for game night?" And she replied, "Yeah, you bring your A-game when you go to Stacy's." I'm not sure where along the way I gave my poor friends the impression that they have to get in touch with their inner-Martha when bringing something to my house. But I guess when you do things like garnish a salad with beautiful flowers, you send a message, whether you mean to or not, that when it comes to the kitchen, you mean business. What's really going on though is that I just know a thing or two about what I can eat around my yard.

My little urban farm is situated on a 4,000 square foot lot in the heart of Seattle. In the 2,700 square feet that's not taken up by my house, I grow as much food, organically as I can for myself, my chickens, and the neighborhood pollinators. So, since space is something I have to consider when I choose what to grow on my "farm", I like to choose plants that give me a lot of bang for my buck. And that's why edible flowers are so fantastic. They're lovely to look at, bees love them, and you can usually use them in more ways than one. Here are just a few ways you can use edible flowers in your kitchen:

Add dried lavender blossoms and buds to some organic cane sugar. Press down on the lavender a little when incorporating the buds into the sugar to release some of the oils (think mortar and pestle)
"Dress" your salad by adding nasturtium, violas (a.k.a. Johnny jump-ups), or calendula petals
Calendula petals can also be dried, ground and used in place of saffron
Add pretty little arugula flowers to salad for a peppery bite. You will be blown away by how much they taste like arugula!
Add bold, purple chive blossoms to salads or soups as an oniony garnish

For me, it all started with nasturtiums and really just because I love how they look. It delights me to no end watching big bumblebees totally immerse themselves inside the deep blossoms, like they're searching for buried treasure. Then, when I discovered I could put those beautiful red, orange and yellow blooms on a salad, it was over. I officially became an edible flower convert. Actually, every part of the nasturtium plant is edible - leaves, flowers, seeds. Aphids love to eat them too, which can be a nuisance since once they appear, they quickly take over the entire plant. Some gardeners plant nasturtiums as a decoy to protect other plants that aphids love. So before aphids take over your blooms, try these recipes so you can preserve your nasturtium harvest and enjoy it long after summer's past.

Nasturtium Vinegar
Put about a cup of loosely packed nasturtium flowers in a clean pint jar. Fill the jar all the way to the top with white wine vinegar. I used apple cider vinegar in another jar for a little variety. Make sure that all the blooms are completely covered with vinegar so they won't mold. Put the jars in a cool, dark place for three weeks. I flipped the jars over every couple of days, just to be sure that the blossoms were always covered and saturated. Strain and proceed to use in any recipe that calls for a bright tasting, orange tinted vinegar. Nasturtium vinaigrette anyone?

Super Simple Pickled Nasturtium Seeds (a.k.a. Fake capers)
I recently discovered that nasturtium seeds can be preserved and used as a substitute for capers! Once the nasturtium flowers fade, a green, wrinkly seed cluster will appear - they come in threes. Pick the seeds when they're young and green, leaving a little portion of the stem attached. Leave some of the seeds on the plant if you want it to reseed and come back again next season. Soak the seeds in salt water (about one tablespoon of salt for each pint of water) overnight. Drain the seeds, put them in a clean jar or container, and cover with vinegar that is heated to boiling point. Seal the jar tightly and store in the fridge for a few weeks before enjoying in any recipe calling for capers. Of course, you could make this recipe even more dolled up with your favorite pickling spices or recipes.

Nasturtiums are the gateway flower because they're super easy to grow and once you start eating those, you'll want to start adding even more edible flowers to your repertoire. So plant a few and use them for more than just for show. Just don't be surprised if as a result your guests start upping their game. "

Thank you, Stacy. This is so incredibly inspiring! What about you? Got a topic you think would make a great small measure guest post? Shoot me an email at: ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com and let's see what we can come up with!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Stacy's just so friggin clever!

I agree about nasturtiums being a gateway drug (err, flower)... I want more!