Flowers are our inspiration and our delight. They are aesthetically pleasing and satisfy our senses with their beauty of form, their colours and their perfumes. And sometimes they can serve us in a more earthy manner by contributing to our variety of foods and in our employ, used in our arts and culinary skills in adding colour and flavour to our drinks, soups, salads, and our cooked dishes, or in garnishing savoury dishes and in decorating cakes, biscuits, dessert and confectionary.
A few flowers have survived in traditional modern kitchen use, such as rose petals, nasturtiums, zucchini flowers, violets, chamomile and calendulas. We regularly enjoy the less obvious flowers of cauliflower, broccoli, and globe artichokes. Most of us will know that the flowers of herbs rosemary, basil and lavender are not poisonous and therefore safe to use in food preparation. But what of all the others?
We must be alert to the fact that many pretty plants are also poisonous so must be cautious in using their flowers as an attractive addition to culinary preparations. We must know the flowers to avoid and those that are safe to use freely.
By tradition there are many flowers used in cookery in the native cultures and countries of the world and to explore leads to increased interest in the potential value and in some case very practical value as a food source. The most vivid examples we know are perhaps the Hawaiian hibiscus, used in Sth Pacific ceremonies and the violets, primroses and rose petals features in the northern hemisphere.
Although the beauty of floral decorative customs will remain, in regard to the use of flowers as edibles is necessary for caution, both in personal experimentation and in relation to the serious responsibilities of a professional chef who will select the choice of flowers for use in the restaurant and hotel trade.
There is an increasing general interest to enlarge the scope of well known safe florals that can be used in regular dishes just as we seek in horticulture to be able to grow many more of the full range of delightful flowering plants that exist in gardens of the world.
It becomes imperative as public interest in the subject grows, to determine flowers that are completely safe; those that should be used carefully or mainly as garnishing; and flowers such as the oleander and daffodil bulbs that are highly toxic and should never be admitted near a kitchen.
As the argument for vegetarianism becomes greater appreciated and the trend away from flesh food continues, it becomes evident that there will be increased consumption of fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables. Our future efforts will be to evolve the finest grade of human fuel to sustain the human body and improve its internal environment. This will no doubt include flowers.