Why are there flowers in my CSA bag?

Over the years, we have offered beautiful edible flowers to our chefs.  Some of them grow wild, such as lovely violas and wisteria petals, and some are cultivated such as mini roses, cilantro flowers, parsley flowers, and kale blossoms.  Chefs love them, and this year we are even putting them in our CSA bags!  Flowers are a beautiful part of spring, and there is no reason we all can’t enjoy them at the dinner table.  Here are some great reasons to eat your flowers.

photo credit @organiceater

They are beautiful!  Tossing a handful of lovely flowers across the top of your salad turns it into something really special.  I have made my same old boring kale salad hundreds of times, then add some pretty little yellow broccoli blooms to it and suddenly, it is the most popular and elegant dish at the party!  I had a handsome young man stop by the market last week and purchased two pints of wild violas.  I asked what he was going to do with them, and he told me his wife was coming home from some business travel that night and he wanted to surprise her with a beautiful meal.  The flowers would grace the plate.  Don’t underestimate the value of beauty on your plate.  

They are good for you!  Flowers add a different nutritional profile compared to most foods we eat.  They are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and other less characterized phytonutrients.  Not only that, they have pollen in them. Eating the natural pollens from your environment has been reported to reduce allergies.  It is the same reason many people eat local honey that contains pollen.  

They taste good!  The taste of flowers can range from spicy to sweet to bitter.  Often, the flavor resembles the flavor of the plant it comes from.  For example, cilantro flowers taste similar to cilantro, but not exactly.  Rose petals taste similar to the way a rose smells.  Violas taste sweet and delicate.  Mustard flowers taste spicy.  Their flavor is almost never overwhelming.  It is delicate, like flowers are.  

People have eaten flowers historically and even now.  In days gone by, people made “sugared violets”.  I avoid sugar, but I still think the concept is really cool.  You basically dip violets in egg white and then coat with ultrafine sugar.  Here is a recipe if you want to try it.  Another traditional spring dish using violets is to smear really good bread with real butter, and then sprinkle with violets.  Eat open faced!  At our farm dinner, Chef Craig Barbour always uses spring flowers in his salads.  He tosses rose petals in there, mustard flowers, and even herb flowers.  I’ve seen people mix yellow mustard flowers in with soft goat cheese for a delicate peppery flavor.  A friend at the market always looks for yellow mustard flowers to sprinkle on top of her grilled fish.  I love cilantro flowers on my omelet.  The options are endless!

Our CSA members who subscribe to our standard sized bags will be getting edible flowers for the next few weeks.  Get brave veggie eaters!  You can’t go wrong with something so lovely.

Eat your veggies! And your flowers,

Robin

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