Edible flowers information page 1.

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Source: The National Culinary Review, June'94 When the head chef for a prestigious stock brokerage in Cleveland wanted zucchini blossoms back in 1982, she went to Farmer Jones Farms in Huron, Ohio. The farm owners thought the chef was crazy. You eat the zucchini and throw away the blossoms, they told the chef. Eating a flower was an alien concept for the folks at Farmer Jones Farms back then. But that chef persisted, demanding perfect squash blossoms, no matter what the cost. Through that chef, Lee and Bob Jones of Farmer Jones Farms entered the world of fancy food. Today, their farm supplies edible flowers, baby vegetables and exotic produce to fine restaurants, upscale caterers and country clubs across the country.

Orange nasturtiums, purple pansies and bright yellow calendulas are just some of the dewy, fresh flowers which the farmers hand pick for overnight shipping. Harvesting by hand is necessary, the farmers say, because their chef customers are perfectionists and expect a high- quality product. The edible petals arrive nice and crisp in restaurant kitchens by 10:30 a.m. the next day, 50 flowers to a case at a cost of $10. That's an average of 20 cents a blossom. The tiny viola flowers come 100 to a case. According to Bob Jones, the almost gaudy nasturtium is by far the most popular flower he sells for culinary purposes, everything from nasturtium butter to nasturtium vinaigrette. Nasturtiums, also known as Indian cress, with their piquant taste, peppery yet mild, and reminiscent of watercress, brighten any salad; just add one-half cup chopped nasturtium petals to three cups of salad greens and toss with dressing. The taste is often likened to eating a silky radish. Brilliant red, yellow and orange in color, nasturtiums are very high in vitamin C. In fact, Jones says, their leaves have more vitamin C than any lettuce.

Nasturtiums also can serve as handy containers for cold salads and cheese spreads. If a decorative flower is needed for banquets, it's the fuchsia that holds up best under heat lamps, says Jones, and they look beautiful on wedding cakes. The fuchsia is edible, but not very tasty. Jones also notes the ruffled pansy, with its mild leafy-green taste, has more body than a regular pansy. Pansy petals taste best in salads. All the flowers grown at Farmer Jones Farm can be ordered according to color to complement the decor or theme of a special dinner. But it's those big floppy zucchini blossoms for which the Jones brothers have a special fondness. After all, thats what got of them started in the edible petal business. The golden-orange blossoms of all types of squash - zucchini, yellow crookneck, pattypan, winter squash and pumpkin - can be used in the kitchen.

The blossoms alone offer the mild flavor of raw squash. They can be sauteed, tossed with pasta or added to egg dishes, stir- fries, soups, salads and vegetable dishes. Italian cooks are famous for stuffing these blossoms with cheese, then frying or baking the flowers in the oven. A more contemporary stuffing might include ricotta, garlic and crab meat, or a crab mousse, or a goat cheese ratatouille, or wild rice.

Submitted By SHERREE JOHANSSON On 10-23-94

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