Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Announcing JFI August: Flower Power

Having spent most of my life in the semi arid climate of Southern Africa, seeing flowers’ blooming all around me is a luxury. Here in the US, spring time and now summer in New England, I’m told is one of the best in the US. The change of seasons and all the colors has been so exciting for me. I have been taking pictures of every bud and every flower that I’ve come across outside my home and office; that I know on-lookers already think me as some mad flower crazy photographer.

Jihva is a monthly event that celebrates an ingredient every month and was initiated by Indira of Mahanandi. This month Jihva comes to Soul Food and I’ve chosen the exotic ingredient: Edible Flowers. At first I was skeptical about the choice but when Indira expressed her excitement and approval, I was encouraged to go for it! So bring out your flower power recipes.

A lot of people are doubtful of introducing flowers into their food, but people have been indulging in culinary uses of flowers for a long long time. Mostly the petals of the flowers are used, see tips and uses described below. If you don't have beds of homegrown flowers waiting to be picked or sources of organic flowers, then flower products such as rose and violet confits, syrups, liqueurs and even dried petals are the most accessible way to incorporate flowers into your cooking. Try searching online for specialist suppliers or look in delicatessens and Middle Eastern shops.

Here are the rules for participating in JFI: Flower Power:

  • Prepare a dish or write about (articles/recipes -breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner) from any cuisine using any Edible Flower (see list below) in any form and post it on your blog in the month of July.
  • Make as many dishes as you like, there is no limit to the number of entries you can contribute.
  • The deadline is July 31st. I will post the round up on August 2nd.
  • Send your entries to soulfoodblog (@) gmail (dot) com. In your entry I need your blog name, link of your blog post, and preferably a beautiful focused picture in 455×280 pixel size as part of your entry. If you don’t send me an image, I will use the first image in your post.
  • Since the ingredient of Edible Flowers is a ‘difficult’ choice, I’m also going to accept dishes that ‘look’ like a flower (in form or garnish) such as this; the aim is to celebrate Flowers this month in any form.
  • If you don’t get an acknowledgement of your entry mail within 3 days of sending your entry, please leave a comment on this post.
  • If you don’t have a blog, just send me an email and I will post it here as a guest post by your name and will include it in the round up with your name.
  • Make sure your post includes a link to this announcement and to the main JFI page. Feel free to use one of these logos.

For a long time, many different cultures have incorporated flowers into their traditional foods. Oriental dishes make use of daylily buds and the Romans used mallow, rose and violets. Italian and Hispanic cultures gave us stuffed squash blossoms and Asian Indians use rose petals in many recipes. Chartreuse, a classic green liqueur developed in France in the seventeenth century, boasts carnation petals as one of its secret ingredients.:Source.

Do not eat flowers from a florist!

Edible flower selection: With the widespread use of pesticides by commercial growers, it's important to select edible flowers from a supplier who grows them specifically for consumption. Do not eat flowers obtained from a florist. However, many grocery stores and gourmet markets now sell edible flowers. If you are choosing homegrown flowers to eat, be certain you know your flowers as not all flowers are edible. Pick home grown flowers in the morning or late afternoon when the water content is high. Select flowers that are freshly-opened, perky and free of any bug-eaten or diseased spots.:SourceAsthmatics should avoid some flowers: Asthmatics or others who suffer allergic reactions to composite-type flowers (calendula, chicory, chrysanthemum, daisy, English daisy, and marigold) should be on alert for possible allergic reaction.

Cooking with flowers: Yes, flowers look beautiful as garnishes, but what do they taste like? Bean blossoms have a sweet, beany flavor. Nasturtiums have a wonderfully peppery flavor similar to watercress and their pickled buds can be substituted for more expensive capers. Borage tastes like cucumber, and miniature pansies have a mild wintergreen taste. Violets, roses and lavender lend a sweet flavor to salads or desserts. Bright yellow calendulas are an economic alternative to expensive saffron, though not quite as pungent. Other flowers may have a spicy or peppermint flavor. When in doubt, taste, but first be sure it's not poisonous.: SourceIMPORTANT: Please see this list of edible flowers, and dont use flowers that you are not sure of.

Edible flowers tips and hints:

Edible flowers as a garnish makes any dish look special on your table, but be sure the flavor of the flower compliments the dish. Here are a few ideas to beautify your recipes and perk up your taste buds:

• Place a colorful gladiolus, hibiscus flower or tulip cup (remove the stamen and pistil) in a clear glass bowl and fill with your favorite dip.
• Sprinkle edible flowers in your green salads for a splash of color and taste.
• Freeze whole small flowers into ice rings or cubes for a pretty addition to punches and other beverages.
• Use in flavored oils, vinaigrettes, jellies, and marinades.

• One of the most popular uses is candied or crystalized flowers, used to decorate cakes and fine candies.
• Never use non-edible flowers as a garnish. You must assume that if guests find a flower on a plate of food, they will think it edible.
• Use flowers sparingly in your recipes, particularly if you are not accustomed to eating them. Too much of a pretty thing can lead to digestive problems.
• If you are prone to allergies, introduce flowers in small amounts so you can judge their effect. Some have a much more pronounced flavor than others, so you'll need to judge accordingly.
• The leaves of some flowers also have culinary uses, but be sure to check a trusted food reference source before experimenting. This helpful edible flowers chart links to full color photos, plus includes info on scientific name, pertinent warnings, and flavor comparisons.
• Use petals in tea and brews, and cold soups.

I am also going to highlight some recipes where some bloggers have used edible flowers in my next post. Please mail me if you have queries regarding this event, I shall be happy to help you as much as I can. So, I’m hoping this will be an exciting and colorful jihva, I will also participate and do the recap on August 2nd.


musical said...

Cool choice, Rachna.

My vote would be for Saffron :). The most accessible floral ingredient. Pumpkin and bottle gourd flowers are commonly used in Kashmiri cuisine (and by that token zucchini flowers can be used to replace those). Other popular and accessible choices would be Hibiscus flower and Lavander flower flavored teas and sherbets :).

Sia said...

rachana, brillient choice for JFI... u have got all of us to put our thinking cap :)

Asha said...

Great choice, enjoy hosting. I am not looking for flower power this time, I will be on break!:)

bee said...

brilliant !! i'm not sure what to cook, though.

Sujyothi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sujyothi said...

Hey Rachna!!
good JFI! Thought provoking indeed!!
This is my first contest if i find anything worthy to contribute that is!
All the very best dear!!
Keep hosting more of such food-for-thought topics!Brilliantly colourful page it is! Lots of efforts there!!

arundati said...

that's an interesting theme....although i have no idea what to make!! happy hosting!!

Mythreyee said...

I have a healthy flower in my pantry for a year or so. Will send that for JFI.

Nirmala said...

Wonderful! Being my favorite event I missed last month's JFI. I already have 2 recipes one already posted and the second one to come soon :)

Mandira said...

great idea... but now I have to think up a recipe :)

ms said...

hi rachna, flowers!! Really original idea. I think I can cook up something with rose water and or saffron.

Meeta said...

oh i like this one. I think I have just the idea!

Indira said...

Thanks Rachana for hosting this flower powered Jihva. Love this theme.

Raaga said...

do cauliflowers count?

Meera said...

Great choice. I already have a recipe ready which fits this theme!! Will send over soon.

Divya Vikram said...

nice theme..

Kitchen Flavours said...

Hi Rachana,

Really nice concept for cooking. I just posted a recipe on this concept and there was no confirmation mail from you. Would you like me to send mai again or post it as a new user. there was no comment of u on my recipe. Please check out the site and let me know.

Sukanya said...

I have just sent in my entry for JFI-Flower Power. Ingredients using flowers is truly very novel. All the best.