Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) Roquette, or rocket by its other names, is one of the easiest greens to grow. This member of the mustard family has long been harvested in the wild in Mediterranean countries, and is today commonly included in lettuce mix. The peppery tasting leaves are delicious on their own or added to mesclun, a blend of specialty lettuces and herbs. A warm spell will often trigger arugula to explode into a profusion of tiny soft white and pastel blossoms. Pick the flowers leaving the leaves intact, and you may well get a second harvest a few weeks down the line. Arugula does double duty in this velvety soup.
Among the 150 varieties of basil (Ocimum basilicum), which is a member of the mint family, you will find names like cinnamon, lemon, or licorice each one with a slightly different aroma. Basil, which the Ancient Greeks considered the king of herbs, ranks among the most popular of culinary flavorings. From green varieties to those with dramatically ruffled purple leaves, basil flavors dishes the world over. In India, certain varieties are considered sacred and dedicated to the gods Vishnu and Krishna. In Italy, the art of making basil pesto is as highly regarded as that of cooking perfect pasta. The French call basil herbe royale and use a sweet variety to enhance the flavor of soups, stews, and salads. This dish is especially striking when made with slices of colorful heirloom tomatoes.
While begonias (Begonia tuberosa) liven up gardens and patios in a kaleidoscope of colors, their beautiful blossoms can also brighten up any finished plate. Their petals have a delicate crunchy texture and citrus-like flavor and are a wonderful addition to this dish featuring quinoa, the ancient grain native to the highlands of Bolivia and Peru. Quinoa, which retains a pleasing crunch even after it is cooked, is considered a superfood packed with nutrition in the form of protein, iron, and fiber, and naturally gluten-free. A verrine (from the French word verre, meaning glass) is a dish presented in a jar or glass.
The blue, star-shaped flowers of borage (Borago officinalis), also known as starflower, have a cool, cucumber-like flavor that enlivens a salad or a sauce. Legend has it that Celtic warriors drank a glass or two of borage wine before battle to increase their courage. Indeed, researchers have found that borage stimulates the production of adrenaline. Nowadays, some herbalists prescribe infusions of borage flowers as a diuretic, or to relieve fever and bronchitis, among other ailments. In the Middle East, borage is distilled into a fragrant water. The exuberant plant grows into graceful bushes that often bear sky-blue blossoms alongside bright pink ones, all on the same stem. Borage blossoms' color and flavor complement raita, a yogurt-based condiment common in Indian cuisines.
Calendulas (Calendula officinalis), also called pot marigolds, are cheery flowers that have had both culinary and medicinal uses for centuries. Throughout the ages, tinctures, oils, and salves made from calendula blossoms have been used to treat headaches and toothaches, and even to stop bleeding. In the 16th century, those who drank a potion made from marigolds were reputed to be able to see fairies! In mild climates, the calendulas bright flowers paint gardens in infinite shades of orange and yellow almost year-round, and their dainty petals add a golden hue and tang to soups, grains, or scrambled eggs. German cooks commonly used calendulas in their soups and stews, which explains the nickname pot marigold.
We have the Chinese to thank for introducing chives (Allium schoenoprasum) to the Western world. This diminutive relative of the onion has been used in cooking for more than 5,000 years. Early American colonists assigned magical powers to chives, hanging them in bunches at their front doors to ward off evil spirits. Chives are among the most common of herbs and are one of the fines herbes of French cuisine, which also include tarragon, chervil, and parsley. They are perennials, and when you grow your own, you have the advantage of being able to use the aromatic blossoms as well as the slender stems in your dishes. Instead of chopping fresh chives, snip them with a pair of kitchen scissors. To speed up this recipe, substitute a frozen pie crust, if desired.
Dianthus come in a myriad of colors. The genus includes about 300 species of flowering plants in the family Caryophyllaceae, native mainly to Europe and Asia. Common names include carnation (D. caryophyllus), pink (D. plumarius and related species) and sweet william (D. barbatus). This diminutive beauty adds a light nutmeg-like scent as well as a colorful touch to many dishes, including green salads, Jell-O molds, and a favorite easy recipes, compound butters. You can make this with all sorts of flowers, including violas, calendulas, roses, society garlic, and of course your favorite herbs (and their blossoms). Make several logs and preserve them in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Try these flavored butters as lovely toppings for a grilled steak or piece of barbecued fish.
The word dill (Anethum graveolens), according to Rodales Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, is derived from the Norse dilla, to lull, alluding to the plants sleep-inducing qualities. The Ancient Greeks used dill as a cure for hiccups! Eastern and Northern Europeans use this versatile herbs feathery fronds in a number of specialties from marinated herring to goulash. Like shooting stars on a stem, the fragrant dills tiny yellow blooms provide a lovely garnish. They are also an excellent seasoning for soups or dips. Dill seeds are used for pickling or baking. This appetizer is an adaptation of the traditional Swedish gravlax.
Beautiful and colorful as can be, this recipe for Melon Marbles with Raspberry Coulis Feijoa Blossoms will be a delightful addition to any table. Using raspberries, an assortment of melons, and even edible flowers, this fruit recipe will be an elegant addition to your next brunch, or even served at a bridal or baby shower. Consider placing this easy fruit recipe in pretty glass bowls for an understated, but nonetheless appealing, approach.
You will find culinary applications for all parts of the crunchy, anise-flavored perennial, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), which belongs to the celery family Apiaceae. Fennel's name in Greek is marathon, which literally means the plain with fennels, referring to the location of the famed Greek Battle of Marathon. Fennel is delicious raw or cooked, and its tiny yellow flowers are just as pleasing to the palate as are the seeds, fronds, and root (also called a bulb). Fennel seed is a key ingredient in Italian sausage and is one of the spices in Chinese five-spice blend. One variety of fennel, Florence, is used, along with anise, another licorice-flavored herb, in the making of absinthe a late 19th century medicinal alcoholic beverage now finding renewed popularity in modern mixology. This recipe combines the delicate and sweet fennel with the citrusy freshness of grapefruit, the creaminess of avocado, and meaty but slightly bitter Greek Kalamata olives.
The word tagine refers to the eponymous dish with a conical lid, as well as to the food that is cooked inside. In Morocco, tagines usually simmer at length over a charcoal fire. You can substitute a heavy cast-iron pan or slow cooker for the classic tagine pot but by all means if you have a tagine, use it! Seasonal vegetables, meat, poultry, or fish, and an unusual combination of herbs and spices form the essence of a tagine. When making lamb tagine, you can pair pieces of the fattier, bonier lamb shoulder with chunks of leaner lamb for a more robust flavor.In this recipe, fennel, a favorite herb of Moroccan cooks, is used in four ways from the subtle sweet, anise-flavored bulb, to the fronds, blossoms, and the prized pollen, a novel and increasingly popular, but expensive, spice. Outside of Europe, California is a major harvester of pure fennel pollen, and its product is considered some of the best in the world. The aroma and flavor of fennel pollen are sweet and pungent, similar to the qualities of fennel seed only more intense. Just a dash of fennel pollen can make an ordinary dish extraordinary! Note Lamb shoulder is a bony piece of meat but is full of flavor. Leg of lamb cooks faster than the shoulder, so it is added later in the cooking process. If you choose not to use leg of lamb, simply double the amount of lamb shoulder. You can find fennel pollen at specialty spice shops or online.
Lavandula, more commonly known as lavender, originated in countries around the Mediterranean, where the growing climate is ideal. Although usually associated with shades of blue, lavender, which is part of the mint family, can also sport hues of purple and lilac, white, pink, mauve, and even yellow. When the diminutive blooms are picked at their prime from June through August and stripped from their stems, just a pinch can add a mysteriously sweet scent and lovely flavor to cookies, sorbets, and even beef stew!
The subtle aroma of lavender infuses this classic clafoutis, a rustic dessert from the Limousin region of France featuring cherries suspended in a thick pancake-like batter that puffs up.Editor's Note Cherry clafoutis is a delicious French dish that can be eaten as a sweet dessert or indulgent breakfast. The lavender adds a unique touch to this scrumptious dish.
The scent of dozens of types of lavender fills the air at Pearsons Gardens Herb Farm in Vista, California. Pearsons is a dazzling nursery founded in 1981 by Mark and Cindy Pearson, and today they produce nearly 1,000 unique varieties of herbs, edibles, and California-friendly plants. This recipe uses one of their bestsellers, common lavender, also known as English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). In addition to this lemon beverage, try some other drinks starring lavender soothing hot tea sweetened with a little lavender honey, refreshing lavender- and fruit-infused water, or spike your favorite cocktail with a little lavender love.
Editor's Note A puff pastry croustade is a French pastry with a crust. In this delectable treat, blossoms are used for garnish and make it look as beautiful as it is delicious.
There comes a time during orange season when blossoms literally rain down on the ground. That is when to pluck the petals from these dropped blossoms, or you reach into the tree and gently pull off the petals and leave the stamen and tiny budding fruit on the branch. These ambrosial preserves are traditionally made with Seville oranges (the same fruit used to make marmalade), but blossoms from Navel or Valencia varieties do just as well. In Northern Morocco, this fragrant treat is savored by the teaspoonful on special occasions. Note Orange blossom or orange flower water is available at specialty spice shops, Middle Eastern markets, or online. Be sure to store the bottle in sunlight so the water doesnt turn dark.
Almost all saffron, the world's most expensive spice by weight, grows in a swath across Spain and Northern Africa stretching east toward India. Saffron is the part of the purple Crocus sativus where pollen germinates, technically called the stigma, but usually referred to as a thread. Each crocus plant yields just three deep red stigmas that must be harvested by hand, which explains why this spice is so costly. It takes roughly 150 flowers to yield 1 gram of dry saffron threads and from 50,000 to 75,000 flowers for 1 pound of threads. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines rely on saffron for flavoring dishes. Whether in threads or ground to a powder, saffron is used sparingly to impart its unmistakable intensity and slightly bitter taste. It is often paired with turmeric to enhance saffron's golden tint.
Next time you have a little leftover good champagne, purchase fresh mussels to make mouclade, a traditional dish from the Charente region of France. You can substitute white wine for the champagne.
While there are nearly 1,000 varieties of sage, two especially stand out Salvia rutilans, also known as pineapple sage, and Salvia officinalis, also called garden or common sage. Pineapple sage is considered a sacred medicinal plant. It derives its name from the Latin salvare meaning to save. Many ancient cultures believed sage possessed life-prolonging properties. Even today, the oil derived from sage has many recognized medicinal applications, including use as an antiseptic. Research has also shown that sage can reduce blood sugar in diabetics. In summer, the bright crimson flowers of the pineapple sage flutter like tiny butterflies on the end of each leafy limb. The leaves of culinary sage varieties, which have a light citrus taste, are delicious in stuffings, soups, and stews. Sage blossoms have a less pronounced flavor than leaves.
Salmorejo is a chilled gazpacho-like soup thickened with stale bread, but it is usually more pink-orange in appearance and much thicker and creamier in texture than gazpacho because it includes more bread. This is a refreshing dish served on a warm summer day. A fortunate few will obtain tastier results using their own tomato harvest. Finely dice and fry prosciutto until crispy as a topping for this soup.
Yucca (Yucca elephantipes) This exotic member of the Lily family, a native of the American Southwest, is also known as Spanish Bayonet. Native Americans and inhabitants of Latin America incorporate yucca in a number of dishes. The distinctive, cream-colored bells of the towering plant burst into bloom in temperate climate zones in late summer. Raw petals add a light, exotic crunch to a stir-fry. If you have traveled to southern France or to Italy, you have probably sampled mild flavored zucchini blossoms (Cucurbita pepo species and cultivars) stuffed or deep-fried. Whole zucchini blossoms make a colorful addition to frittatas or quiches. Sliced thin, both yucca and zucchini blossoms are unusual additions to a cheesy quesadilla. This addictive pico de gallo is inspired by the one served at the famed Rancho La Puerta spa in Tecate, Baja California.