Edible flowers add an entirely new dimension to salads, can turn a simple main course into an exotic still-life and will transform desserts from the familiar to the sublime. And like the best food trends, nothing about the use of edible flowers is new. Cultures and cuisines around the world have been using flowers for hundreds of years. What’s different is the reinvention. What was once considered fragile and delicate is now being used in ways that are bold and exciting.
It doesn’t hurt that they look amazing, too.
A lot of the credit for the trend surrounding edible flowers comes, once again, from the new wave of Nordic cuisine. The passion for foraging has already reintroduced an entire range of herbs and plants once ignored. So it’s no surprise those at the forefront of this philosophy have turned their attention to flowers.
For top chef Rene Redzepi -patron of the ‘World’s Best Restaurant’, Noma- edible flowers aren’t just decoration; they are an integral part of his desserts. His cookbook: ‘Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine’ puts flowers front and centre. Dishes like “Blueberries Surrounded by Their Natural Environment” and of course “Dessert of Flowers” make it clear. And, naturally, the dishes themselves look like works of art.
Another chef leading the way is Mikkel Karstad from Copenhagen. He’s been using edible flowers in both sweet and savoury dishes for years. Which is why he was the perfect choice to develop one of winterspring signature desserts and several recipes for our blog. The proof is right there in the taste.
What inspires chefs like Mikkel is the possibility. Once you start using edible flowers in your cooking and presentation the only thing holding you back is your imagination. The number of flowers that can be used in cooking is vast. Many are common to most home gardens. Rose, lavender, hibiscus and lilac are all edible and all work beautifully in desserts.
And even as different chefs use flowers in different ways, they agree on one thing: the scent and taste of flowers has the ability to evoke memories and experiences in an entirely unique way. One of the classic examples of this is the taste of elderflower cordial. That, for many people, is exactly the taste of long, warm Nordic summers.
In other parts of the world, summertime and blossoming roses go hand in hand. The petals of scented roses can be dusted with icing sugar, dried in the oven and then sprinkled over ice cream. They can also be boiled with sugar and turned into a rich, floral syrup. Rose hip can be used in the exact same way.
Another wildly popular flower -and one of the tastiest- is the nasturtium. The yellow and red flowers show up in the summer, blooming well into autumn. Nasturtium has a gentle, peppery taste which means it’s versatile enough to work in either sweet or savoury dishes. Many ice cream recipes now use this flower which blends beautifully with hazelnuts, pistachios and even soft cheeses.
You may only know camomile from herbal tea but it’s also a wonderful ingredient in desserts. We incorporate it into vanilla ice cream with startling results.
Of course, not all flowers are edible. One of the main principles of foraged cuisine is that it’s essential to make absolutely certain the ingredients are safe to eat first. But once you do, the creativity is endless.
Words by Christina Marker
Photographs by Ditte Isager
Styling by Christine Rudolph and Mikkel Karstad