Eat Good Food

Edible Flower Tips from Chef Perry Hoffman

To learn about edible flowers, the local newspaper recently interviewed our culinary director Perry Hoffman for his tips and recommendations when using flowers in cooking.

We host a very popular foraging event for our guests each spring and use edible flowers and fresh herbs extensively in our dishes every day.

Here are some of our favorite edible flowers:

Borage

“You can muddle borage leaves like you would mint and make a little cocktail with fermented honey and bittersweet vermouth,” Perry told the paper. “I love borage because to me, it’s cucumber, cucumber, cucumber. So I think caraway, buttermilk, dill and sturgeon . . . I have a Russian thing going on in the back of my mind.”

Cucumber blossoms

“We try not to pick all the flowers too early in the year because we really want cucumbers,” Perry says, noting that the flowers taste like cucumbers themselves.

“It’s important to try to pick male and female flowers evenly, so the bees can transfer the male flower pollen to the females, and eventually a cucumber will emerge.”

English Lavender

“When I was younger, I thought it was too soapy and potpourri,” Perry says. “But peaches and lavender and honey is such a classic, timeless combination that I fell in love with.”

Lilac

“Lilacs taste just like they smell, with a little astringency and bitterness, creating a wonderfully elegant balance when paired with the opposites,” Perry says. “They are also perfumey and floral, so the bitterness is a back note that to me is similar to the acquired taste of a Negroni.”

Mexican Marigolds

Perry says that he likes to serve Mexican marigolds with a simple roasted chicken with lots of Meyer lemon or a roast duck. “The pairing of this pungent herb with a good Russian River Pinot Noir is intoxicating and intense.”

Nasturtium

“They’re really abundant in late spring, in the wild as well as homegrown,” Perry told the paper. “The leaves, flowers and seeds taste sweet and spicy, just like watercress. And what likes watercress on it? You think of beef and heavy meats.”

Roses and Tulips

“All roses and tulips are edible if they haven’t been sprayed,” Perry cautions. “For roses, use the petals on plates, in infused vinegar or in a strawberry and rose petal salad with pink peppercorns and basil.”

Sweet and crisp with a flavor reminiscent of pea shoots, tulip petals make a great cup for special foods.  Perry likes to place some of our smoked trout rillette inside a petal and garnish it with mint.

“Both petals are so velvety and soft,” he says. “There’s really nothing like that texture.”

Scented geraniums and lemon verbena

“It’s a really lovely connection with butter lettuces and little gems,” Perry says of scented geraniums, adding, “Geraniums and watermelon is one of my favorite combinations in the world.”

Lemon verbena is also versatile. “They are so tiny that we will just sprinkle them lightly over a salad or ice cream,” Perry told the paper. “You get a tiny little burst of lemon.”

Wild elderflowers

“For me, their rich, sweet scent is synonymous with early summer,” Perry says. “It’s said that summer starts when elder trees burst into flower and ends in late August when the berries are ripe.”

The tiny white flowers have a sweet taste and are used to make infused beverages and syrups.

“They have this wonderful flavor of muscat grape and nutmeg, and I love them in any dish that includes rhubarb,” he says.

“Because the flowers are so small, it’s fun to coat a perfect sphere of ice cream with them, [and our] bar program also infuses the elderflowers into a simple syrup that is used to make their own version of St. Germain, a liqueur flavored with elderflowers.”

Read the entire story and get more terrific edible flower tips here.

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