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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

May Flowers

Spring has really sprung, and although some of the most popular vegetables won't be ready to harvest for another month or so, we've already started to reap nature's bounty. May is a perfect month to harvest wildflowers, especially dandelions and violets, for culinary adventures. While the leaves of the dandelion are edible, they're tastiest early in the spring, before the plant flowers. At this point it's most flavorful to stick to the golden tops of the flowers, which are also nutritious and delicious. Pick a bag full of flower tops (make sure to choose a hunting ground away from major roads and lawn chemicals), pinch of the bitter green bases, and use the petals in many interesting recipes, from dandelion fritters to dandelion syrup. You can also keep it simple and add the petals to a green salad, or steep them in hot water for a nourishing spring tea. Violets have been flowering for some time, but it's not too late to pick some for edible experimentation. Use the flowers to make delicacies like violet jelly and candied violets. In Victorian times, these dainty foods were considered so special that a violet tea party was often held in the spring to celebrate them. When cooking with violets, do be careful not to substitute African violets, which technically aren't violets at all. Dandelions and wild violets are very common in most parts of the United States, but if you can't find any, don't despair. You can order a package of edible organic flowers from Diamond Organics. Creative Commons image by Flickr user Aussiegall.

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