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Petals on a PlateFoods made from edible flowers
Yoo Hye-rim  |
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승인 2010.05.25  19:07:25
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FLOWERS LOOK beautiful and smell nice, but have you ever tasted them? They are, in fact, a great food ingredient. Not only do they stimulate the appetite with their bright colors, they offer a variety of different tastes such as sweetness, sourness, spiciness, and bitterness. What is more, they are low in calories yet high in essential nutrients such as amino acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. The earliest record of using flowers for cooking dates back to 140 B.C., and to this day, there are still many recipes in both eastern and western culture that use them. Here The Yonsei Annals will introduce some ways to turn flowers into food that will cheer you up and help your well-being.

Flower Salad

   Care to add some colors, scent, and taste to the usual green salads? Making a salad with flowers is a very simple way to enjoy flowers as they are. It is as easy as mixing edible flower petals and green vegetables with a dressing of your choice. If you want it crunchier, slightly freeze the petals before using them.
   With its appealing look and taste, a flower salad can be a great side dish to boost your appetite. Herbria, a Korean restaurant located near the Balsan subway station, offers a flower salad as an appetizer in all course meals. Various herb flowers including primula, pansy, and begonia are layered on top of a bed of green leaf lettuce, each adding a unique scent and taste to the dish. Herbs and flowers are brought in daily from herb gardens to add freshness and healthy benefits to other foods served here as well.



 Flower pizza

   Flowers and pizza? What an interesting combination! Flora, an Italian restaurant located in Samchung-dong, serves Chef's Special Pizza, which uses rucola (a green herb with a spicy taste) and edible flowers as toppings. As the name "Flora" implies, the restaurant is all about flowers: The interior and exterior of the restaurant are decorated with flowers, and so are the appetizers and main dishes.
   The so-called "flower pizza" does not have the usual meaty toppings such as ham, sausage, or pepperoni. Instead, thin pizza dough baked with mozzarella cheese and garlic is topped with Grana Padano cheese, rucola, and a variety of fresh flowers. The flowers used for the pizza include pansy, rose, daisy, margaret, primula, torenia, and chrysanthemum, though the list may vary depending on which flowers are shipped to the restaurant each day. The taste and scent of each flower and the rucola blend harmoniously, creating a slight taste of bitterness and tanginess, which helps reduce pizza's usual greasy taste.



Hand-crafted flower tea

   Many are probably familiar with tea made from flowers, some of the most popular ones being chamomile tea and marigold tea. Among flower teas, the Chinese hand-crafted teas are quite special in that they please not only the mouth and nose, but also the eyes of the drinker. When brewing, it looks as if a flower is actually blooming in the teapot.
   Here is how hand-crafted flower teas are made: The makers wrap green tea or black tea leaves around dried flowers, tie them with silk threads into bunches, and let them dry. The tea is served in a transparent tea pot, and when hot water is added, the tea leaves open up and the flowers inside come out floating in the water, gradually "blossoming" over one to two minutes of time. Indeed, a lot of people enjoy hand-crafted flower teas not only for the flavor but also for the fascinating sight.
   Tian Hua, a tea cafe in Shinchon, offers six different kinds of hand-crafted teas (Jinshangtianhua, Jinzhiyuye, Molixiantao, Haibeituzu, Hongmudan, and Lumudan) and various regular flower teas. Since its opening in 2001, the owner has been making trips to China tea gardens to directly import the Chinese hand-crafted teas.



 A list of common edible flowers

   Flowers make a good food material, but not all flowers are suitable for culinary use. Edible flowers must be non-toxic, and should have fine colors and mild scent. Here are some of the flowers most commonly used for cooking:

  Pansy, a sweet-tasting flower, comes in various colors, including yellow and purple. It helps calm the nerves and fight inflammation. Its big petals can be used for ssam (vegetable wrap).
  Daisy has a light and clean taste. Its small petals are useful in garnishing various foods including soups and baked goods. Daisy is good for the health of the liver and bowels, and also helps relieve constipation.
  Due to its pretty color (red, pink, yellow, etc.) and splendid appearance, carnation is often used for hwajeon (pan-fried rice cakes with flower petals) and salad, or as a decoration for many foods.
  Primula has sweetness along with a bit of bitterness. Its soft texture makes it a good material for hwachae (Korean style fruit punch with real fruit chunks) and jelly. It helps strengthen the immune system.
  Nasturtium has a spicy taste. It is rich in vitamins and iron, and helps fight cold. It is used in making Kimchi as well as salad, sandwich, and ssam.
  Begonia has a strong sour taste and crisp texture, making it suitable for a salad. It removes toxins from the human body, and is also a good fatigue fighter.


Tips for getting edible flowers

   Flowers sold in flower shops cannot be used for cooking, because they are raised with agricultural chemicals. Wildflowers and garden flowers may be unsafe as well, for they might contain toxins. For culinary use, you must buy flowers raised specifically as edible flowers using organic methods. There are many places online and offline where you can get edible flowers in packages. To list a few:

-Yangjae-dong Flower Market (Seoul Seocho-gu Yangjae-dong 232. Tel. 02-579-8100)
-Garak-dong Agricultural Products and Marine Products Market (Seoul Songpa-gu Garakbon-dong 600. Tel. 02-3435-0400)
-Herb-i online mall (
-Angel Farm online mall (

*It is crucial to keep the flowers fresh. They should be kept sealed and refrigerated until use. To store the flowers for an extended period time, keep them in the freezer.


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People often say "What looks good tastes good." If you believe this to be true, you would definitely be interested in trying some of the foods introduced in the article. Or, you can come up with your very own recipe using flowers. Either way, next time there is a flower on your plate, it won't be just a decoration.


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