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Growing up in Vermont, my summers consisted of bare-foot ramblings through the forest, outdoor BBQs, and summers sprinkled with abundant fresh produce from my mother’s extensive garden.
One of my distinct childhood memories is walking along our stone-paths and picking johnny jump-ups that had sprouted up from the cracks of fecund soil that appeared between the sedimentary rocks which grew hot in the sun. My sister and I would snatch the johnny jump-ups, in fact called Viola flowers, and chant our playful but macabre exclamation “Momma had a baby and its head popped off!” while using our thumbs to remove the flowers from their stems and catapult them into our expectant mouths.
The taste was earthy and round. Mostly, I think, we enjoyed the act of finding and ingesting something so small, beautiful, and delicate.
Our outdoors education taught us that there were many flowers you could eat–and some that you couldn’t. Red clovers taste like honey when you pluck out the little straws and suck them clean. Nasturtiums are spicy and dramatic. Squash blossoms can be filled with goat cheese and fried to perfection. In high school some friends fermented their own dandelion wine.
But don’t eat Lily-of-The-Valley or Wisteria. They might be beautiful, but trust me, these lovely petals, among others, are filled with poison that can be quite dangerous when eaten by humans.
Nowadays, floral frills are turning up in haute cuisine. For me, it’s a welcome addition. Not only do flowers add a visually stunning palate to a meal, they’re a reminder that the earth is full of surprises that can delight us in so many ways.
Eat more flowers everyone. It’s Spring!