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PUBLISHED: 5:11 PM on Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Making use of edible flowers
A few years ago, I was at an outdoor café in Monterey, Calif., enjoying lunch with family and friends. As our entries were served, we all exclaimed over the beautifully presented fare. When asked what I had ordered, I gestured at the hills behind me that were covered with wild greens, dandelions, clover and other edible flowers. "I have all this," I replied. Thinking back, it was by far the best salad I have ever eaten.

Edible flowers are very much in vogue today. A variety of articles can be found in women's magazines, foods magazines, and newspapers.


Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Now is the perfect time to enjoy Alaska Fireweed Honey.
Additionally, the UAF Palmer Research and Extension Center has a new publication, "A 'Starter Kit' of Edible Flowers for the Garden and Table." Co-author and horticulture specialist, Roseann Leiner, expects the publication to be available for distribution in the very near future.

There are a number of flowers in Southeast that can be mixed in salads, used for cake and pastry decorating, and brewed for teas.

These include violas, dandelions, lilacs, and wild roses. Resources and recipes for use are easily found both in print and on the Internet (search with key words: edible flowers). Be forewarned that not all flowers are edible, so be safe and do some research before incorporating them into your diet.

My favorite local flower is the fireweed; due primarily to the fact that I had never seen the fireweed plant before living in Alaska. Its vibrant color aside, I like the fact that the progression of the summer season can be measured as the blooms mature up the stem.

Leaves and stems from the fireweed plant can be gathered for tea before the plants flower. These are best picked in the spring when they are young and tender. Mature leaves eventually become tough and bitter.


  Dr. Sonja Koukel
To use the young tender shoots, peel the stems and eat them raw or add them to salads. The blossoms can be used for making honey and jelly.

I made Alaska Fireweed Honey also known as Homesteaders' Honey last year, and it has proved to be a family favorite. Now is the perfect time to enjoy the following recipe taken from the Cooperative Extension Service UAF publication, "Collecting and Using Alaska's Wild Berries and Other Wild Products." Copies are available in the Juneau District office or you may order online: http://www.uaf.edu/ces/publications

Alaska Fireweed Honey

Ingredients

10 cups sugar

2 ½ cups boiling water

1 teaspoon alum (thickener)

30 white clover blossoms

18 red clover blossoms

18 fireweed blossoms (1 or 2 stalks)

Note: numbers of all flower blossoms are approximate; feel free to use more as desired

Directions

Sterilize pint or half-pint canning jars and prepare lids according to manufacturer's instructions. Boil together sugar, water, and alum for 10 minutes; maintain steady boil on low heat. Remove from heat. Add blossoms and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain mixture through cheesecloth. Immediately pour honey into hot canning jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Wipe jar rims and add prepared two-piece lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield: 8 cups

If the honey should crystallize after being opened, remove lid from the jar and microwave for a minute. Or, put the jar in a pan of water and heat on the stove until dissolved. This method works for all types of honey.

Dr. Koukel is the Juneau District Agent for the Home Economics Programs of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.


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