From Garden to Table 3

Edible Flowers and Anti-Aging Herbs

A bouquet of flowers can certainly brighten any room, but did you realize that they can also sweeten your recipes while promoting longevity? Indeed, there are several varieties of edible flowers that can be easily grown in a home garden, or even indoors. Plus, many of these pretty petals come from plants with a long history of anti-aging properties. A perfect way to brighten Mother’s Day is with these anti-aging, sweet treats. Long live Mom!

Chrysanthemums  – Dating back over 3,000 years, chrysanthemum flowers are widely used in Chinese cooking and in tea. Chrysanthemums (or “mums”) come in a wide variety of colors. Flavor varies by color. Red blossoms typically have a slightly tangy boldness, which contrasts nicely with sweet frosting.

Marigolds – All marigolds are edible, but three varieties are favored from the flavor perspective: Tagetes Lucida, Tagetes Patula and Tagetes Tenuifolia. They have a mild citrus flavor, which pairs nicely with a lemon cupcake. Marigolds can also be used to color dishes yellow; they are often termed “the poor man’s saffron.”

Roses – The beauty of the rose can make any dish elegant. All pure roses (genus Rosa) are edible, but flavor depends on the color of the rose, from tart to sweet. Darker colors tend to be more tart.

Basil – Basil flowers can be white, light lavender or pale pink, depending on the type of basil. The flower’s flavor is similar to a milder version of dried cooking basil. Not only are the flowers pretty and tasty, but basil has strong anti-aging benefits. Basil is loaded with antioxidants, which can protect your cells from the damaging molecules that contribute to heart disease and osteoporosis.

Lemon Marigold Basil Cupcakes with Candied Chrysanthemums and Roses

2½ cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

4 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon shredded basil

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder and soda. In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly add eggs, until well mixed. Add sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice and basil; mix until just combined. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, until well blended. Place batter into cupcake tins lined with baking paper. Bake 11-13 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Frost when cool, then garnish with edible flowers.

Yield: 24 servings. Per serving: Calories: 345; Fat 5.2g; Carbs: 18.1g; Protein 3.3. Cost Per Serving: $.88.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

3-4 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup butter

1 teaspoon lemon peel

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter. Add lemon and beat about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Gradually add in 2 cups sugar, until combined. Mix in additional sugar, until frosting becomes of a spreadable consistency.

Candied Chrysanthemums and Wildflowers

35-45 edible flower blossoms or petals of your choice, such as edible mums, roses and marigolds

2 teaspoons meringue powder

2 tablespoons water

1½ cups superfine sugar

Instructions:

In a small bowl, dissolve meringue powder in water. Using a small brush, lightly coat all sides of flower petals. Dust with sugar. Place flowers on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and dry for 1-2 days. Store in an airtight container, or freeze for later use.

Note: Use only flowers you are certain to be edible and free of any pesticides. Be cautious of flowers from nurseries and garden centers, as many of these have pesticides. Pick flowers in the morning, when water content is highest. Gently wash and dry all flowers thoroughly before using.

Suzette Zara is a certified nutritionist, chef, cookbook author, creator of Satan’s Salsa (SatansSalsa.com) and a frequent speaker on low-fat healthy cooking. suzette@SuzetteZara.com.