FOOD: Local chefs offer Flower Show-inspired recipes

Pansies and borage flowers decorate this deconstructed crab cocktail from General Warren.
Pansies and borage flowers decorate this deconstructed crab cocktail from General Warren. PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN
At General Warren, duck confit rests on a bed of apple and squash blossoms.
At General Warren, duck confit rests on a bed of apple and squash blossoms. PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN

EDIBLE FLOWERS 101

“You can forage a lot of these things. Or they grow in your yard, and you don’t know you can eat them,” said Joshua Smith, General Warren’s executive chef. “Not to say, ‘Go out and mow your lawn and make a salad.’ Do a little research.”

“Make sure that someone knowledgeable identifies them for you before you eat them,” agreed Sally McCabe, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s associate director of community education. “The stuff you want to eat comes out of people’s gardens.”

Just remember: Pesticide-free is key.

“They have to be grown organically,” stressed Marjorie Lamb of Spring Thyme Herb Farm. “For instance, you don’t want to buy plants from a nursery that have probably been sprayed with pesticides, take them home and put them in your salad.”

Likewise, skip the florist. Save those roses for a vase, not a plate.

— By Emily Ryan

The dish screamed “springtime” — pansies and borage blooms dancing like butterflies through blackberry puree in a deconstructed crab cocktail. Call it a tribute to the Philadelphia Flower Show as edible flowers take “center plate.”

“They’re a lot of fun to work with,” said Joshua Smith, executive chef at General Warren in Malvern, who also prepared duck confit with apple and squash blossoms. “I just like that they add the different colors and textures. I like that they add some depth.”

So does chocolatier Gail Warner of Bridge Street Chocolates in Phoenixville. For a limited time, indulge in organic flower mendiants — dark chocolate disks, featuring dried hibiscus, crystalized ginger and toasted pine nuts.

“It’s just a surprise, a beautiful combination of flavors in one bite,” she described. “The hibiscus is a little sweet and a little tart. I think everyone’s used to having it in tea.”

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At A Taste of Britain in Wayne, choose hibiscus, lavender, chamomile, rose or jasmine tea.

“Just seeing the flowers in the tea, it makes me think of spring,” said owner Debbie Heth. “It’s such a little bright, happy spot.”

Better yet, pair a cup with lavender shortbread.

“The lavender takes it up a notch, adds some complexity,” she explained. “I like lavender, so I think it’s a nice touch.”

Lavender’s among the many edible flowers Marjorie Lamb grows at Spring Thyme Herb Farm in Kennett Township, supplying Whole Foods and other stores.

“I think people are sometimes hesitant to try to eat them because they think they’re going to have some strong flavor,” she said. “I like to eat the nasturtiums. They have a really nice flavor, kind of like watercress.”

Calendula, carnation, cornflower, geranium, marigold, rose, viola… the list goes on.

“Most of these you would eat raw,” noted Sally McCabe, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s associate director of community education. “Put them in a salad or on a cake for color.”

Remember those borage blossoms?

“They are the most incredible blue that flowers can ever get,” she said. “The flowers taste like cucumber.”

One more to enjoy: pickled daylily buds.

“Oh, they’re good!”

Lavender Shortbread

Ingredients

1 pound unsalted butter

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers, ground (or crushed with mortar and pestle)

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and lavender and mix. Add flour about a cup at a time and mix until just combined. Chill the dough for at least an hour. Roll dough out on lightly floured surface to ¼-inch thick. Cut into shapes (we like using teapot-shaped cutters!) and place onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes, just until the edges start to become golden. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Best enjoyed with a pot of good tea!

RECIPE COURTESY OF A TASTE OF BRITAIN

Deconstructed Crab Cocktail

Ingredients

Premium jumbo lump crab meat

Fresh edible flowers or herbs

Blackberry puree:

3 pints fresh blackberries

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

½ cup red wine

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

3 cups water

¼ cup brown sugar

Instructions

This is a simple dish that will let you express your creativity. Apply the puree however you like to a white plate. Place the crab lumps on the puree. Fill in your canvas with your flowers, fresh herbs or salad mix of your choosing. Be sure to use the finest ingredients as this dish relies on the flavors of the food.

For the blackberry puree: Place all puree ingredients into a medium saucepot and simmer over a medium heat until liquid reduces by ¾ (approximately 10 minutes). Transfer mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and chill.

RECIPE COURTESY OF GENERAL WARREN