When spring is springing, I want to celebrate it both indoors and out. Every new bud and bloom is exciting,o and spring blooms are brought inside as decoration. Forced forsythia branches are added to vases with freshly cut tulips, at least one primula is potted up to brighten a room, and pansies are brought into the kitchen to decorate spring dishes. It’s fun to add fresh, edible blooms to salads and baking. They add a wow factor to the plate. If you’ve ever been wondering, are pansies edible, well, you are in luck. Because I love to include flowers in a variety of recipes (it’s basically edible crafting), I thought I’d share some different ways to enjoy pansies.
I enjoy adding a variety of flowers as decoration to different dishes, like nasturtium flowers to a salad and violets to a cake. I also preserve various herb flowers like chives and garlic chives in vinegar, and I dry chamomile for tea. For this article, I’m just focusing on pansies and violas with their sweet, colorful faces. The petals on their own are quite lovely or you can toss in the whole flower to whatever you’re making.
Do make sure that your flowers haven’t been sprayed with chemical pesticides before consuming them. I often grow pansies from seed, so I know exactly what’s been added to their pots. Be careful when purchasing flowers from nurseries, garden centers, or a florist. You may want to ask to confirm they’ve been grown organically.
Are pansies edible? And what do they taste like?
Pansies have a pretty mild flavor and scent. In fact I would say they’re mostly included in recipes for their looks. The flavor is not on par with say a rose or elderflower. It’s a bit more grassy and bland. After candying some pansies, despite the sugary coating, my niece said they tasted kind of like a black tea. I agreed they had a faint hint of that flavor.
At the very least, if you’re not interested in eating them, you can still include edible flowers as a garnish. Arrange pansies atop baked goods, among appetizers, on thick soups, on cakes, etc.
Using pansies in the kitchen
Just adding pansy flowers to a dish can elevate them to gourmet status aesthetically. Think about which flowers might be in season when you’re planning your menu. Because of their mild flavor, they can be added to both savory dishes and desserts.
Here are a few ways to use fresh pansy flowers:
- Press them into soft cheeses
- Use them to garnish devilled eggs
- Bake them into tea biscuits
- Process them into jellies
- Make candied pansies (instructions below)
- Freeze them into ice cubes with other edible flowers
- Add to the top of a salad before tossing
- Press into shortbread cookies (Martha Stewart has a pansy cookie recipe)
- Add tricolor violas to sheets of pasta
What you need to candy pansy flowers
I was first inspired to make candied pansies after editing an article several years ago by Charmian Christie, aka The Messy Baker. It’s pretty easy to do. All you need are egg whites (you may want to use pasteurized egg whites for food safety reasons), superfine sugar and water. Simply separate one egg from its yolk (one egg white goes a long way) or use the equivalent in tablespoons from a carton of egg whites, and whisk the mixture well with about a teaspoon of water. Lay out the clean, dry flowers on a cooling rack that has a grid. I find the flowers sit nicely in the squares.
Lay out a piece of parchment paper underneath the rack to catch any drips. Using a small paint brush and tweezers, gently “paint” your egg mixture onto both sides of the flower. I’ve found that a silicone basting brush also works. And in the absence of tweezers, you could simply use a fingertip. Sprinkle your sugar onto each bloom, coating each petal. Allow the flower to dry out overnight at room temperature. It takes about 24 to 36 hours.
To hasten the drying, you can put your oven-safe drying rack in an oven pre-heated to about 150°F to 170°F with the door kept slightly open for a few hours. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t get too crispy. I’ve found the flowers don’t crisp up as much when they’ve been left out on the counter. That’s the best option if you have the time.
Once they’re dry, the flowers may stick to the rack, so be extra gentle when removing them. You may want to slide a butter knife gently underneath to detach. I’ve broken a few by being a bit overzealous with removing the flowers and forgetting how delicate they are once candied.
Your candied flowers will be good for several weeks if you store them in an airtight container. Add them to cakes and cupcakes, on a tray of squares and other desserts, or as a garnish in a bowl of ice cream.
Wrapping pansies into rice paper rolls
In the new book, The Edible Flower, authors Erin Bunting and Jo Facer include a recipe for Vietnamese summer rolls with viola flowers. I love making cold rice paper rolls as an appetizer. Mine usually include freshly cooked vermicelli, julienned slices of cucumber and carrot (sometimes pickled in rice vinegar, sugar and water), and herbs. You can also include a protein, like tofu or cooked chicken or shrimp. It’s usually a few leaves from a thai basil or mint plant that are seen once the roll has been wrapped and turned over. But flowers add a whole other wow factor.
Once I started including edible flowers in the odd dish or baked good, I’m now constantly thinking of how I can incorporate other blooms into something delicious—or at least pretty.
Other edible flowers
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