Brighten up your dishes with edible flowers
Blossom in the kitchen
Story By Sheila Paz + Photos by Kennedy Gott
Flowers have more uses than brightening someone’s day. Cooking with edible flowers can be a creative way to add flavor and beauty to your meals. Wexford executive chef Josh Goetz loves cooking with edible flowers because they are beautiful, fresh and look healthy. As he was bringing out his floral collection for this private cooking demonstration, he shared his appreciation for nasturtium flowers. They are one of his go-to flowers because you can eat the whole flower or just the petals, and they’re high in antioxidants. The flowers have a slightly peppery taste, similar to radishes.
“When you have this (nasturium) in a salad or in a dish as a garnish on top, it keeps it fresh, it keeps it light, it adds a color, and it has the additional benefits of having some nutrition,” Goetz said.
According to Goetz, the best way to use flowers is as a garnish — whether it is taking the flower petals apart and sprinkling them on a dish or using the flower in a centralized form to add texture.
Flowers can be cooked, but they need to be flowers with potent smells to ensure that the aromatics will not dissipate when heat is applied. Take hibiscus flowers, for example. The flower itself has a strong scent and when boiled, that scent does not fade. It keeps its slightly sour and floral flavor profile, making it perfect for teas, syrups or jellies.
An interesting lesson from Goetz is that aromas are additive and flavors are subtractive. “If I have a sour dish and I have a sour flower, then the two things together will be less sour,” says Goetz. That basic equation is used when Goetz is developing with new dishes.
Anyone can use flowers in their cooking. It’s as easy as doing online research and going to the nearest flower store to get the seeds or flowers. Goetz recommends looking up culinary flowers you can buy or grow yourself. Don’t be afraid to use all parts of the flowers. Different parts of the flower have different flavor profiles. For example, dandelion flowers are sweet, but their leaves and roots are bitter. Their flowers make for great infusions with honey, while their leaves make great additions to salads. Do note that when using flowers, all senses are used to create a dish. You want to make sure the smell of the first bite accents the taste of the first bite.
So start getting crafty in the kitchen, and let your food bloom with the addition of flowers. And like Goetz says, “live life to the fullest and eat well.”
Goetz’s favorite part about cooking
“The craft of cooking,” he said. “It’s busy; it’s chaos; it’s controlled chaos. I like the art of cooking. That happens when developing a dish or learning about something new or writing a new menu.”
Edible flowers that are good to start with:
Let’s get snappy
Chef Goetz likes to mix flavors from different regions to create the ultimate plate. This recipe is a fusion between a Mediterranean crudo and Peruvian ceviche.
Snapper Crudo with Fennel Pollen and Orange Blossom Leche de Tigre
Ingredients (Leche de Tigre)
1/2 cup snapper scraps
1/4 cup aji amarillo paste
1/2 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon cilantro stems
2 tablespoons of red onion
1 celery rib
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/2 cup olive oil
1 watermelon radish
1 blood orange
Leftover cilantro leaves
Handful of mint leaves
Pinch of salt
Pinch of fennel pollen
 Prepare snapper by cutting the skin off the fillet and cutting it into thin sashimi-like slices. Reserve skinless fish scraps for leche de tigre.  Blend snapper scraps, aji amarillo paste, lime juice, salt, ginger, cilantro stems, red onion, celery rib and garlic clove. Blend until smooth. Add water if the mixture is too thick.  Add in orange blossom water and olive oil. Set aside.  Thinly slice avocado, shallot and watermelon radish. Segment the oranges into small wedges and pick cilantro and mint leaves.  Arrange fish on a plate and sprinkle with salt and fennel pollen. Pour leche de tigre around the fish. Arrange the rest of the ingredients around the plate in a way that looks like a palette of colors and textures.
A berry good time
This fresh and vibrant salad will be one to make time and time again. Hibiscus is high in cancer-fighting antioxidants and has properties that may prevent heart disease.
Hibiscus Strawberry and Citrus Salad with Hibiscus Vinaigrette
Ingredients (hibiscus vinaigrette)
Dried hibiscus tea
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch slurry
1 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
 Brew hibiscus tea to double strength by using half the recommended amount of water according to the hibiscus tea package. Let it steep for twice the amount of time.  Once tea is ready, pour 1 cup into a saucepan and reduce to half.  Add cornstarch slurry, cool, and set aside.  After tea mixture has cooled, add olive oil, salt, honey and lemon juice.
1 cup arugula
1 cup shaved fennel
1 cup frisée lettuce
½ cup strawberries
½ cup dried strawberries
1 blood orange
¼ cup chives
1 tablespoon of crystalized hibiscus flowers
 Cut fennel where the stocks start to get dark green. You can use a Japanese mandolin, but thin perpendicular cuts to the fibers work. Place shavings in ice water.  Clean and wash arugula.  Slice strawberries into circles and cut dried strawberries in half. Segment grapefruit and blood oranges into small wedges.  Cut chives and shallot into small, confetti-like pieces.  Dress fennel and arugula with hibiscus vinaigrette. Add shallots and chives. Mix well and add a pinch of salt.  Plate the mixture, and add fresh and dried strawberries. Arrange citrus on top of salad, and garnish with crystalized hibiscus flowers.