Good Advice from Carmen Cosentino
July 27, 2017 at 5:36 pm #16537
What a wonderful time of year this is. Fresh fruits and vegetables are everywhere. If you have not tried the Auburn Farmers Market, you are missing a great opportunity for really, fresh, homegrown produce. Yes, earlier in the season some of it comes from elsewhere. Let’s face it: There is not a whole lot being produced here at the beginning of June. I was there last week and saw delicious corn, very ripe tomatoes and even some early eggplant. And the garlic was hefty and solid, not like some that we see in the supermarkets, which has been imported, mostly from China. Yes, it is garlic and has flavor, but on that 14,000-mile trip it does lose moisture and flavor.
But there is another homegrown product that we underuse, and often never think of in our cooking: flowers! Yes, there are a lot of edible flowers: flowers to stuff, flowers to sprinkle into salads for color and flowers to add to soups for flavor. Just think about what guests will say when you pass around a plate of different colors of gladiolus blossoms, filled with your favorite cream cheese spread, or when that birthday cake is decorated with beautiful, multi-colored pansy flowers. The opportunities are endless.
But first, a caveat. Know where the flowers come from. I would not be serving flowers from a supermarket, or even a flower shop. While our import regulations regarding pesticides and fungicides are stringent and I know that most offshore growers obey the rules, I do not want to eat something shipped over by a company does not follow the rules.
If a flower is going to appear on my table it must come from my garden, or even, perhaps, a neighbor’s garden. I know that I do not use harmful sprays there. I will buy at a farmers market once I have asked what is used on them. As many of my readers know, I often visit the Ithaca Farmers Market on Saturday or Sunday because nearly everything there is certified organic. And there are places locally, like Elderberry Pond, where I feel safe. It is always worth a call to see if they are open and what flowers they might have.
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It is wise to know that not all flowers are edible, and some can be downright poisonous, like calla lilies, foxglove, daffodils and monkshood.
As a kid, I used to love glads. I would snap a flower or two off the stem and suck the sweet sap from the flower. I have gone past that childlike stage, and now I break them off and rinse and dry them. I fill them with a teaspoon of a mixture of cream cheese, parsley and black pepper. Sometimes I add bits of smoked salmon for added flavor. This works with daylily flowers, as well. But the flowers tend to be a bit coarser and less delicate than glads.
Many of us have, I am certain, deep-fried our zucchini blossoms — but there is so much more to them. They can be added to a salad, raw. In many countries around the Mediterranean, they are stuffed with rice and spices and served as a side. I particularly like the open blooms stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, with a clove of minced garlic, some basil or parsley (never both), salt and pepper. This one can be enjoyed raw as an appetizer or fried as a side dish.
Got nasturtium flowers? Tear the orange and yellow blossoms into big pieces and distribute over a green salad for beautiful color and a slightly nutty taste. Breakfast for two? Microwave eight or 10 thin spears of asparagus to soften. In a bowl, beat four eggs with four tablespoons of milk and three or four very young, tender and shredded nasturtium leaves, a half dozen torn nasturtium blossoms and salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a nonstick pan and when that sets, add the asparagus on top. Put under a broiler top, and sprinkle with blossoms for color and a nutty flavor. Enjoy!
Carmen Cosentino operates Cosentino’s Florist with his daughter, Jessica. He was elected to the National Floriculture Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2008, received the Tommy Bright award for lifetime achievements in floral education. He can be reached at email@example.com or (315) 253-5316.
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