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Floral Flavors in Foods: Shades of Paradise?

Isn't it neat to think of the floral aromatics (rose) in food in mid-eastern cuisine, which florals are very unusual in "western" cuisine? Right now, I can't think of any floral in western cuisine, except for the lavender in Herbs de Provence.

When i think of rose-scented food, i think of the Persian Empire, or the heydey of the Moghul Empire.... Pardon me, i'm waxing romantic. http://www.annonline.com/discover-ind...

Perhaps by eating the rose, they were ingesting some of the garden of "paradise," expecting some transport to another era or state of being. In essence, were they being "romantics" as well?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_...

Much of this post is from another thread, and was inspired by Buttertart's reminder to me of rose-scented kulfi.

What other florals are incorporated into foods? Why the East-West divide in the flavors and the degree of their incorporation into food?

Is there particular meaning or import in their usage?

What are your other thoughts?

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  1. How 'bout Barely Buzzed--cheddar with lavender and ground coffee beans?

    I'm a lavender lover. Made simple syrup (for a nice cocktail or sexed up lemonade) and gelato with it (lavender mint, to be precise). Ooh, and lavender creme brulee, too! Does that make me a romantic (kidding, sis!)?

    1 Reply
    1. re: kattyeyes

      Peet's has an Earl Grey with lavender (instead of bergamot) that might interest you.


    2. Last night, after tasting an out of this world Oolong green tea (harvested fresh this summer in China), with its floral jasmine-like scent, I lay in bed wondering about this "florals" in foods theme.

      Then it dawned on me that I had missed the most widespread use of florals probably anywhere -east or west: VANILLA! Don't quibble that it isn't technically a floral, please (although that is like asking Niagara Falls to go backwards).

      Further, I thought, there is SAFFRON -- though that spans east and west, thanks to the Moors and the spice routes, I strongly suspect.

      Finally, in three for three, I though of the wonders of HONEY, which benefits from the bees diligent transmutation of the nectar from so many different types of florals.

        1. re: hannaone

          Those flower cakes are so beautiful! (I never realized that azaleas were edible.). do you steam them or pan fry?

          Is there some significance to eating various flower varieties? are the flowers associated with traditional festivals?

          i think i recall eating nasturtiums in my grandparents' garden, just because i could. there wasn't any meaning to it, but they were attractive because they were so bright and tender. i don't recall a special flavor -- maybe a bit peppery? we never put them in food, though.

          1. re: alkapal

            Hwajeon are usually pan fried, although some similar rice cakes are steamed.
            They (Azaleas) are usually associated with the lunar date 3/3 (Mar 3rd Lunar) or (chrysanthemum) with the lunar date 9/9 (Sept 9 Lunar) as these are considered to be "lucky" or "positive" days, but may be made with any spring or fall edible bloom.

            1. re: hannaone

              and the color isn't ruined with the pan fry? is it cooked mostly on the underside, then briefly on top?

              1. re: alkapal

                Generally the rice cake is cooked on both sides first, then the flower is pressed onto the top side, flipped, and cooked for a few seconds.
                Maangchi has a recipe and video here - http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/hwajeon

            2. re: alkapal

              Our CSA gave us flowers for many weeks this past summer. We could choose from among many types, but I never took anything but the nasturtiums because they were the only ones you could eat. I mostly threw them into salads--they're great with butter lettuce--but also stirred them into a cake batter for color. They didn't contribute much of their peppery flavor there, but I'll bet if I'd had more, they would have done something.

              1. re: Isolda

                I have to confess I don't quite understand the affection for nasturtiums....I've tried them many times, in lots of different places, and to me, it's just....there.

                I don't gag or freak out...just gently and quietly lift them to the edge of my plate where they're out of my way.

          2. a wiki reference led me to chrysanthemum festivals, mentioned in a guide to traditional festivals (a book i want!). it clued me into some of the "meaning" associated with the flower: http://books.google.com/books?id=IKqO...

            ingesting the chrysanthemums at a "double-nine" festival chases away disease and bad luck, in fresh air and clear skies of autumn. lovely! http://www.china.org.cn/english/featu...

            are the mums eaten in cakes?

            1. In the ancient village of Provins, just to the southeast of Paris by about 60 miles, roses are the specialty of the region. According to legend, Thibault de Champagne, who was born in the city, returned from the Crusades with what would become the first cultivated roses in Europe. The city rose garden is worth a visit...as is the well-preserved medieval town.

              The city now has a dozen places to buy rose syrup....rose lemonade (think a rose-scented 7-up)...rose jelly (really beautiful - a gorgeous pinky-peach jelly with diaphanous rose petal suspended in it)...and even rose ice cream.

              I can't eat much of it, but it's really lovely in small amounts.

              Violet candies are very common all over Europe.

              There's a candy made from a white flower all over Europe, too - the flower is the bloom of a tree, and it's heavenly. Sorry, I can't remember what it's called -- it's only in bloom for a few weeks, so it appears and disappears within weeks.

              Incidentally, herbes de Provence bought at a supermarket in France DOESN'T have lavender in it...the French don't usually eat lavender -- but it's commonplace for sachets, cleaning products....and in the garden.

              Some of the cuisine from Northern Africa also uses orange flower water -- which is absolutely gorgeous -- very subtle, lightly sweet.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sunshine842

                sunshine, thanks for the insights.

                why do the herbes de provence sold in the u.s. have lavender? http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...

                personally, i don't like eating lavender. i love the lavender french-milled soap, though.

                1. re: alkapal

                  when I was in a Penzey's store this summer, they were shocked to find that there is no lavender in French Herbes de Provence (and a little irked, I think. oops.)

                  I have no idea if it's true or not, but I've been told that it was created for the tourists.

                  And I'm with you -- I wear lavender perfume and use lavender-scented household products, but I really don't like eating it.

              2. It's interesting the French don't use lavender in herbes de Provence...it's my least favorite floral scent (early childhood trauma associated with the scent) and I hate it in food (sorry katty).
                You need orange flower water for a proper Ramos gin fizz, but I can't think of another use for it in US food.
                Love rose and violet, scent and flavor. Used to get proper (i.e.UK-style) Turkish delight that was half lemon and half rose - ate the lemon first to get to the rose. Had lovely violet ice cream in France.
                My great-grandmother used to put a whole rose geranium leaf in her pound- and white cakes to give them a certain something.
                I think that these flavors have fallen out of favor over the 20th century and been supplanted by artificial ones that are stronger and more immediately appealing (just as mauve, the first industrial color, fell out of favor as more vivid dyes became available).

                1. I love elderflower drinks. I've heard about elderflower-flavored desserts, but have never tried one.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Pia

                    Years ago in Indiana I used to make elderflower fritters! Remembering.....

                  2. OOh. I almost forgot -- poppies!

                    We all know about the seeds,but did you know that poppy flowers can also be distilled into syrups, liqueurs, and candies? The region around Nemours, France, is as well-known for their coquelicot (the French for poppy) products.

                    It's a really, really lovely, lightly sweet, almost citrusy flavor, with a stunning color -- makes a fabulous Kir Royale, too.

                    This summer we had Kir made with lilac syrup -- a very unusual color (light purple!) but married extraordinarily well with the Champagne. It makes an awesome summer-evening drink.

                    All of the floral things I've mentioned (rose, poppy, lilac) are delicious when done with a light hand, but do be careful...it's very easy to overdo, which results in an almost sickly sweetness that smells a bit like your grandmother's bathroom.

                    1. Bergdorf Goodman has some floral scented chocolate wafers, i hear from serge the concierge.

                      """"Heavenly Scents, Petals of Chocolate by Maison Boissier
                      Wafer thin petals of chocolate by Maison Boissier would make communion a delight.

                      When I reached the Boissier stand at NY Chocolate Show on Sunday, time was running out so I had only time to taste the white one with verbena (vervaine) and the pink with jasmine, France and the Orient.""""""


                      i recommend his blog for you NYC dwellers...... new food finds and events on tap.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: alkapal

                        White choc and verbena, oh my golly gosh.

                        1. re: buttertart

                          i tried to taste that in my mind. i guess that one needs some prior references in order to do that.

                          (for example, i was trying to link up balsamic and chocolate...). hard to think of anything i'd like....

                          1. re: alkapal

                            There used to be a v good restaurant here called Verbena that had that flavoring in a dessert (creme brulée I think). Very nice, lemony/floral.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                It was lovely. Too bad the place closed.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  my mom always loved lemon things. there was an italian place we'd go, and they did a limoncello cake with a raspberry coulis. we'd always order that, with some espresso.

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Yum. Love lemon too. Chocolate for candy, fruit and nut for dessert.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      Anybody who loves lemon should really grow lemon verbena. It rocks, and will grow in a sunny window.

                        2. re: alkapal

                          Asian jasmine is wonderful infused in cream for whipped cream or ice cream.

                        3. martin yan was in dali, yunnan, china, and had in the marketplace a huge steamed bun stuffed with brown sugar and rose petals.

                          at a local dali restaurant, the ingredient piles outside included a pile of rose petals.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: alkapal

                            Wish I'd seen that.
                            There's a Chinese restaurant in Flushing that has a fish coated in rose petals - I haven't tried it but the person who reported on it said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not of the good variety.
                            PS that bun sounds lovely.

                            1. re: buttertart

                              """Episode #11 - A Day in Delightful Dali
                              Martin experiences everyday life in enchanting Dali, a town in northwest Yunnan Province surrounded by mountains on the east, west, and south, with a lake in its center. It’s the home of the Bai ethnic minority, with their unique cultural heritage. First, Martin visits the town square and joins in a local chess game. He then tours the Three Pagodas, a famous landmark that traces back to the Tang Dynasty. For more local color, Martin visits a Bai family and shares a special, traditional meal with them. Finally, he strolls back to the town square to join the locals for evening festivities, which includes songs and dances.

                              Poached Eggplant in Spicy Peanut Sauce
                              Sichuan Hot Pot""""


                              here's an episode guide for "martin yan's hidden china" on create tv: http://www.createtv.com/CreateProgram...

                              maybe your local pbs station will have a different schedule, so you might check that out, too.

                              the show is really more about the culture in general than the food in particular.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                Thanks v much, Alka. I don't think MY is on our PBS at the moment but will check. That's an interesting neck of the woods.

                          2. Speaking of rose as alkapal and I just were, one of the best things I've ever enjoyed was the raspberry and rose sorbet at Berthillon in Paris. Magic synergy of tastes, ravishing.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: buttertart

                              mentioning rose some more -- or more accurately, rosehips -- i love that red zinger tea from celestial seasonings. it is hard to find. (maybe i already mentioned this upthread).

                              1. re: alkapal

                                That was around everywhere back in the day, wonder why not now. It's hibiscus and rose, I think? Double flower power.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  yes, indeedy. still on their site http://www.celestialseasonings.com/pr...

                                  Red Zinger®

                                  “There’s no mistaking a Zinger®! We introduced Red Zinger in 1972, and nothing around here has been the same since. The zing comes from a blend of tart and tangy Chinese hibiscus and fruity Thai hibiscus, balanced by cool, refreshing peppermint and the unique, earthy sweetness of wild cherry bark. Try this perennial favorite on ice!” — Charlie Baden, Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster Since 1975

                                  it males a terrific summer punch!

                            2. Since someone else brought up hibiscus, I was reminded of agua de jamaica, aka hibiscus tea. I thought it originated in Mexico, but after some brief googling I've learned that it is consumed in many corners of the world. including Egypt and Thailand.

                              1. here is an interesting article expanding my knowledge on some of these floral flavors: http://factoidz.com/flowers-as-food/

                                i happened upon it as i am researching a dried flower petal that was used in our chinese dessert soup this evening at xo taste in falls church, virginia. the soup also contained coconut milk and water chestnut. very pleasing. the package said "tremollo" but also had the chinese name. i will post the photo later. in the meantime, it was ruffle-y and translucent white. it became slippery and slightly gelatinous upon rehydration and incorporation into the soup.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: alkapal

                                  here are photos of the dessert soup and the package of the snow fungus.

                                  what is the name of the soup, and a link perhaps to a recipe? i loved the water chestnut in the soup!

                                  edit: here is a recipe for a sweet soup, but it looks much more elaborate than what we had. where we ate, the soup was brought out gratis, so that might explain why the ingredients are not so elaborate. http://cheah2009.blogspot.com/2011/07...

                                  here are some other recipes for the ingredient in dessert soups, from an interesting food site: http://www.noobcook.com/tag/snow-fungus/
                                  i say it is interesting, because, e.g., it has recipes like this for chinese claypot chicken with rice and chinese sausage: http://www.noobcook.com/claypot-chick...

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    I think this is maybe what it was...snow fungus...osmanthus is reddish. Love those dessert soups.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      YES! brava buttertart. it was intriguing and delicious. better than the bean paste soup they used to give.

                                      so it is a fungus and not a flower? seems more like that, indeed. (did i recollect correctly that "english name" for it on the package -- "tremello"? i ask because i couldn't get any google results except for tremolo, haha). <EDIT: yes, "tremella" with an "a" is its scientific name! http://ingredients.noobcook.com/snow-... >

                                      is it used in savory soups, too? i'm assuming so, since it is a neat texture, for sure!

                                      how about cold (room-temp) applications?

                                      is it stir-fried, ever?

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        I've only ever seen it in dessert soups. It's related to cloud ears, I believe. Nice stuff, I'll see if I have a recipe about for it and post, alkapal.

                                  2. I recall someone mentioning lobster with vanilla, and i came upon this idea again. http://www.irenedevette.nl/2011/01/wh...

                                    this is from a new-to-me food blogger in rome, courtesy of the introduction from katie parla. http://www.parlafood.com/best-bites-i...