June is from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, but is currently residing in New York. She loves to cook naturally with plants from her garden.
Are Pansies Really Edible?
Yes, pansies are edible and are healthy for you too. Pansies contain Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
Pansies make beautiful, colorful, magical garnishes for vegetable dishes, egg dishes, salads, sandwiches, beverages, and desserts.
The Chinese were the first (as far as we know) to experiment with eating flowers and their many recipe varieties can be traced as far back as 3,000 B.C.
The Romans used pansies, violets and roses in a variety of dishes, and lavender in sauces.
In medieval Europe, eating flowers was commonplace. At that time, people ate for medicinal purposes as well as nutritional purposes; a practice modern diets could learn from.
During the Victorian era eating flowers was very popular, especially with the fancy finger foods served at high tea as they brought a touch of elegance and wealth to the table.
In today's culture when asking people to eat pansies I always get a mixed reaction. There are those who look at me like I asked them to dig a ditch without a shovel and then there are the open-minded folks who jump right in with looks of enthusiastic childlike wonder on their faces.
What has been commonplace for centuries, in cultures such as Polynesia, Micronesia, and Asia, is crossing over to be absorbed into American culture as well.
American chefs are becoming more advanced and bold in their food presentations by more and more incorporating beautiful edible flowers to enhance their presentations.
Because of the vibrant and varied colors of the sweet little pansies, they can be matched to just about any tablescape you may want to create for a summer luncheon party, an evening dinner party, a baby shower or a wedding reception.
Pansies are from the viola family just as their cousins; the violets, violettas and "johnny-jump-ups" are too. These are just a few of the many edible flowers that we have on our planet, but they are the ones that I will be using in the recipes I share.
Pansies are my favorite because I just love how they look like little bright, happy, smilin' faces. They are so pretty, with so many colorful combinations and so cheerful that you can't help but smile when you see them.
Preparing Fresh Pansy Flowers for Food
Most edible flowers need to have stamens and styles removed before consuming.
The pollen has been known to cause an allergic reaction in a small amount of the population who are already prone to allergies.
The pollen can also have a bitter flavor and a grainy, fuzzy texture that is not very pleasant to the palate. Plus it looks rather messy to have pollen dust smearing up a white table cloth.
This is the best part....
Pansies are not part of that class of edible flowers as the whole pansy flower may be eaten without any physical discomfort. You can eat the petals, the stem, and the stamen.
Again, you can eat the whole flower.
With the huge variety of beautiful, bright and colorful varieties to choose from, pansies make an ideal food garnish and food additive.
Grow a Lovely Flower Garden and Eat It Too
Edible flowers such as pansies were very popular during the Victorian era but have made a comeback and are now quite trendy. Many new cooks have discovered the fun of adding color to food by cooking with pansies and the they have found how easy it is to grow them.
I just buy several trays of the little starter plants and then plant them in potting soil in hanging baskets and flower pots. They come in so many beautiful varieties that the only hard part is figuring out which ones I have to leave at the nursery!
I plant lots of these pots and a few hanging baskets every spring to be sure of a smile every morning when I see there little smilin' faces, and plenty of blossoms to cook with.
The fun things about cooking with pansies are their vibrant color combinations and their ease of use. You don't need complicated recipes to cook with them. and they will enhance the presentation of any meal.
Because they do come in such a variety of brilliant colors, they will liven up any dish they are used in and can even be color coordinated to your food, or your tablescape.
Color coordinate hors d'oeuvre garnished with pansies to match the wedding colors at a wedding shower or reception.
I like to float pansies on soups or in punch bowls, garnish the top of brie with a few pansy blossoms and make pansy ice cube decorations or freeze in blocks of ice for bowls of punch. All it takes is a little imagination.
Pansies aren't only used as garnishes for food and drinks. They are also an added ingredient to appetizers, omelets, soups, salads, pasta, fish, chicken and desserts.
Pansies and violets can also be dried for teas to relax and to heal the body. They can be made into lovely flavored vinegar, syrups, liqueurs, tinctures, and tonics as well.
What do pansies taste like? I'm glad you asked. They usually have a mild, fresh, sweet flavor and some will taste a bit like wintergreen.
The pansy flowers used on desserts can be a real delicious treat. They can also have a more prominent wintergreen taste depending on the variety, and how much you eat (a whole flower tastes stronger than just the petals).
Edible Pansy Flower Tip #1
Do not pick any flowers that you find growing on the side of the road. These flowers are toxic from exposure to carbon monoxide, etc. produced by the cars driving by on the road. There is always the possibility they have also been sprayed with poisonous herbicides.
Pansy Pear Gorgonzola Bruschetta
During the summer I like to grill fruit such as pineapple, peaches, nectarines, apricots or plums to add another dimension to the wonderful flavor contrast from the saltiness of the cheese and the deep natural sweet flavor of the fruit.
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- 1 loaf hearty multi-grain bread or Baguette
- 3 -4 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 oz. soft Gorgonzola
- 5 ripe pears
- Local grown honey to drizzle on pears
- Handful washed and dried pansies
- 1. Preheat oven to 400°
- 2. Slice bread on the diagonal into 1/2" slices (about 12 - 14 slices). If slices are very large, cut in half. Lay out slices of bread on parchment paper on a cookie sheet . Brush bread with olive oil. Spread cheese on the bread.
- 3. Slice each pear into 6 slices. Figure 1 pear per slice of bread. You will have to judge by the size of the bread you have chosen to use.
- 4. Toast bread in oven about 2-3 minutes. Remove toast when toast is golden brown and cheese is beginning to melt and lightly bubbling.
- 5. Immediately layer pear slices on top of the toasted cheese. Top with a few pansies; drizzle honey over the pears and pansies; sprinkle with a few fresh herbs such as thyme, tiny basil leaves, or marjoram.
- 6. Serve on a lovely platter as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to a spring salad for a light, but filling spring lunch.
- Goat cheese may be substituted for the Gorganzola cheese.
Be Aware If Prone to Allergies
Keep in mind it is probably not the smartest thing to start eating a huge quantity of flowers right off the bat.
Some people are prone to allergies so it is best to introduce the flowers to your diet a little at a time to see how your body reacts to them.
Everyone's body and metabolism is different, and could react to flowers and herbs differently.
Introduce flowers into your diet in small quantities at first, one species at a time. Just like introducing a baby or a pet to a new food, you will want to do the same for a new food like edible flowers; a little at a time. Make yourself a pansy sandwich one day and try a pansy omelette the next to see how to do.
The majority of the population will not have any reaction at all when eating pansies, Johnny-jump-ups and violas, but we don't want to throw caution to the wind for the few numbers that might have allergies. It is a good thing to have this knowledge if you decide to experiment with different flower species.
The people who are prone to allergies or suffer from asthma should be very cautious when eating composite-type flowers such as calendula, chicory, chrysanthemum, daisy, English daisy, tulip, marigold and yucca.
The pollen of composite flowers are usually highly allergic and will often cause reactions in sensitive individuals.
If you are sensitive to ragweed and hay fever you probably should not experiment with eating composite flowers and should be on alert for possible allergic reaction.
Only the petals of composite flowers should be eaten and the white tips closest to the stem can be bitter. Check for bitterness and clip off if they are.
Pansy Flower Canapès - Rosalind Creasy
Original Recipe came from Rosalind Creasy's cookbook "Rosalind Creasy's Recipes from the Garden" featured here on the right.
I have changed it a bit to suit my taste. You may change it to suit your taste, too.
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- 1/4 c. dill
- 1/4 c. chives
- 1 lb. (2 8-oz. packages) softened cream cheese
- 3 Tablespoons Hellman's or BestFoods mayonnaise - do not use Miracle Whip
- 1/2 teaspoon milk if needed
- 2 large loaves rustic style multi-grain unsliced bread
- 4 -5 dozen organic fresh pansy flowers*
- Herb leaves**
- In a mixing bowl, add the dill, chives and 3 tablespoons of mayo to the cream cheese and mix until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little milk; a 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency.
- Trim the crusts off the bread and cut it into slices 1/3 inch thick; whole grain crackers may be substituted.
- Cut the slices into large squares or rectangle fingers about 3"x3" for the squares and for the finger rectangles about 2"x 4" inches. (Just divide & cut each slice of bread into equal pieces the width of the bread.)
- Spread the cream cheese mixture on the bread, approximately 1 tablespoon per square, and arrange the squares on cookie sheets.
- Cover them lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to decorate.
- Carefully wash the flowers and herbs and gently pat them dry on paper towels. Lay them out on damp paper towels and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use, but not for more than a few hours or they will wilt.
- Decorate each canapès square with a pansy another edible flower or two and an herb leaf or two.
- Re-cover the canapès lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time. Do not prepare more than 2 hours ahead or the flowers will wilt and the bread will get soggy.
- Put a paper doily on decorative trays, place canapès on the tray. Place edible flowers around the canapès for a festive look and serve.
- * Other edible flowers may be combined such as chive blossoms, nasturtium, viola, Johnny-jump-up, borage, broccoli, rose petals, scarlet runner bean, sage flowers, and dill and fennel florets
- ** Herb Leaves such as parsley, any variety of mint, dill, fennel, any variety of basil, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, thyme, and any variety of sage leaves.
Pansy & Violet Flower Omelet
Omelets should always be cooked in a non-stick sautè pan.
An 8" omelet pan is the best choice, but any nonstick pan will do as long as it's round and between 6 inches and 10 inches in diameter.
A tip for the use of a non-stick pan is to always use a heat-resistant rubber spatula.
Your flowers should be unsprayed, chemical-free flowers from florists, large supermarkets, delicatessens, health food stores, or better yet, just pick them from your own garden.
This recipe is for one omelet. You can make as many as you like by making one at a time or multiply the recipe by the number you need and have several omelet pans cooking at the same time. Just be careful not to brown.
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- 2 large organic free-range eggs
- 2 T. unsalted butter
- 1 t. olive oil or canola oil
- 3 T. cream
- 1 T. minced fresh or dried chervil
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- A few handfuls of edible flowers *
- Crack the eggs in a medium bowl, and whisk until yellow.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed nonstick sautÃ© pan over medium-low heat. Add the butter and oil; heat until butter melts.
- Add cream, salt & pepper, and chervil; whisk like crazy; beating as much air as possible into the eggs until well blended.
- Once butter is melted, pour in the egg mixture, and turn the heat down to low.
- Swirl the egg mixture around the pan. Don't stir! Let the eggs cook for up to a minute or until the bottom starts to set, lifting cooked egg gently to allow uncooked egg to run underneath and cook. Repeat with the other edges, until there's no liquid left.
- Your eggs should now resemble a bright yellow pancake, which should easily slide around on the nonstick surface. If it sticks at all, loosen it with your spatula.
- Add most of the flowers (reserve some for garnish).
- Using your spatula, lift one edge of the egg gently, fold it across and over, so that the edges line up. Cook for another minute or so, if necessary, but don't overcook or allow the egg to turn brown.
- Slide the whole omelet onto a serving plate, put plate in a warm oven to keep while you make the next omelet. Let it cool slightly. Garnish extravagantly with the remaining flowers.
- * Any combination of edible flowers may be used such as pansies, violas, violets, marigolds, chive blossoms, nastiriums, lavender, chervil or rose petals.
- Serve the omelet with champagne or a French Champagne Mimosa.
Contemporary Nonstick 10- and 12-Inch Omelet Pans, Set of 2 by Calphalon
An essential piece of kitchen equipment needed to make a beautiful omelet is a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet. This set is a moderately priced set that will serve the purpose well. Perhaps they may not be the best of the best but this set is good quality and comes at a more than fair price (fabulous sale price) for a good set which will get the job done properly. You are getting two pans for the price of one!
Edible Pansy Flower Tip #2
Remember not to eat any flowers that you buy from the florist unless they are from a local organic florists or farm. Flowers that are not raised on local organic farms have been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides (yes, they are a poison too!).
Recipe adapted from MomsDish.com blog. The Omelet Rolls are easy to make, yet they look really impressive when served. You can add anything that your heart desires, such as various types of veggies, edible flowers, meats and cheeses.
I like to make mine with pansy flowers for the beautiful colors along with onion or chive blossoms. Adding a fresh herb such as chervil or tarragon really improves the flavor of the Omelet Roll.
- 8 Eggs
- 1 Cup Milk
- 1/3 Cups Flour
- 1 Medium Tomato; Finely Chopped
- 1/4 Cup Purple Onion; finely minced
- 2 Tablespoons Scallions; sliced thin
- 1 Large handful pansies; washed and dried
- 1 small handful of chives blossom, if available
- 1 teaspoon dried chervil or 1 Tablespoon fresh, minced
- 1 1/2 cups Havarti Cheese; grated
- Salt, Pepper and Hot Sauce to taste
- Prepare a 12" X 16" jelly roll pan by lining with parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Beat eggs and flour in large bowl until well combined. Add milk and beat until smooth. Beating eggs with flour first, then adding the milk later, makes for a smoother texture. If using a blender, beat until smooth.
- Add onion and chervil and blend until mixed.
- Pour egg mixture onto prepared pan. Sprinkle prepared vegetables, flowers and 1/2 cup of cheese.
- Bake at 350°F for about 14 minutes, or until edges are almost set.
- Top omelette with remaining Havarti cheese; baking 2 minutes longer or just until cheese melts.
- Roll up the omelette immediately, starting at one short end and peeling off parchment paper as omelette is rolled.
- Place on platter; cut into slices.
- Plate and garnish with more fresh pansies.
- Serve immediately, as melted cheese does taste the best when still warm and melty.
Pansy Spring Salad
With their beautiful array of colors and mild lettuce-like flavor, pansies brighten any dish.
Any citrus dressing will accent the walnuts and feta cheese in a salad.
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- 4 cups washed and torn mixed salad greens
- 2 fresh sprigs of dill
- 2 large fresh curley-leaf parsley leaves
- 6 large basil leaves
- rolled up and thinly sliced julienne style
- Fresh chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 c. chopped chives or 2 chopped scallions
- 1/2 fresh sliced and quartered cucumber
- 1/2 large fresh lemon
- Pinch of salt
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 t. olive oil
- 1 cup toasted roughly chopped walnuts
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- About two handfuls of fresh pansy flowers
- Toss salad greens and herbs into a large bowl and toss to distribute the herbs among the greens.
- Slice tomatoes in to wedges then cut each wedge into 2 pieces to make bite-sized pieces.
- Slice cucumber and cut into quarters to make bite-sized pieces.
- Chop the chives or scallions and add to salad.
- Squeeze lemon juice (without the seeds) over the greens and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad.
- With a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet, heat the oil to high. Toast the walnuts by continuously shaking the pan until the aroma of toasted walnuts permeate the air. Do not burn the walnuts. Cool on paper towel.
- Add cooled walnuts and feta cheese to salad and toss well.
- Divide salad and pansies among four serving plates and serve.
- A citrus salad dressing may be passed at the table. I prefer a spicy orange salad dressing. Recipe can be found below.
- Tips: Never cut lettuce or salad greens with a knife. It bruises the tender greens and makes them wilt faster. Optional: Add fresh berries such as Strawberries, Blueberries, or Blackberries
Blood Orange Ginger Salad Dressing
Dressing is also excellent as a marinade for seafood or chicken.
- 1 t. peeled and mashed fresh ginger
- 1 mashed garlic clove
- 1/4 - 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 freshly-squeezed blood orange juice
- 1 freshly squeezed Meyers lemon
- 1 -2 t. orange blossom honey
- 1 -2 T.white rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 t. soy sauce
- 1 shallot finely minced
- 1/2 t. dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 T. red chili paste