Edible flowers: More than simple decoration

(Photo: Pramitha Hendra)

IO – In the Millennial era, a plate of salad now not only displays vegetables, eggs, fruit, or slices of meat. What is becoming fashionable is salads featuring edible flowers. These colorful flower petals are not just for decoration but are very safe to eat. The demand is high, especially as a garnish or food decoration, both in hotels and restaurants.

Felia Kharissa, or “Icha”, owner of Harvest Mountainorganic, started this business in 2017. “At first I didn’t know anything about this; it happened that a friend knew that I enjoyed gardening. And he suggested growing this edible flower. Good that they were able to grow in my garden in Cisarua,” said Icha.

Icha started by buying seeds, then learned techniques from books. This mother of one child did not hesitate to watch culinary shows in her spare time while looking for tutorials. There are at least 15 types of flowers that have been successfully cultivated by this Jakarta-born woman. It has become an unwritten requirement for fine dining restaurants to make edible flowers available: Nasturtium, French Marigold, African Marigold, Blue Pea Butterfly, Dwarf Dahlia, Dahlia Pompone, Gomphrena, Borage and Impatiens are popular. Then there are Miniature Rose, Dianthus, Pansy, Anthirrinum, Geraniums and Roses.

Icha said the types of flowers favored by customers include a mixture of French Marigold, Pansy, Borage and Dianthus.

Interestingly, Icha did not need to spend a large capital outlay or an extensive land for this lucrative business. “At first, there was not much capital outlay, for land that was not too large, 500 square meters was enough. The plants are small and can be stacked on a shelf. First, we planted seeds; I waited some 4-6 months; when they are flowering, the more often they are harvested, the more flowers can be picked,” she explained.

Edible flowers belonging to Harvest Mountainorganic are priced from IDR 20,000 to IDR 120,000.

The promotional system itself is also very simple: Icha only markets through social media like Instagram. Currently, Icha supplies 15 restaurants in Jakarta, Sumatra and Surabaya. One of these is Le Quertier, a leading eatery in Jakarta. Le Quertier has more than 5 kinds of edible flower menus.

The use of flowers and their benefits
In Edible Flowers: A Global History (2016), it is written that the use of fine dining flowers can make consumers feel pleasant. If you trace far enough back, the use of flowers in cuisine is not something new or born because of trends.

Flowers also became meals in the Hebrew Easter ritual. In the past, the Dandelion flower was a complement to a lamb dish. The use of flowers in dishes is also common with people in Yunnan. They eat roses, processed into cakes and served as a breakfast menu. Senegalese and Malians use Hibiscus as a component in food.

The paper “Safety of Edible Flowers” reveals the use of fine flowers in Europe that appeared in ancient Roman times. The Romans used Borage, Violet, and Rose (to date these three flowers are still often used in the culinary realm). During the Tudor dynasty, Primrose became a snack option.

In the realm of business, the use of fine dining flowers began to bloom in 1990 in Spain and France, two countries with a passionate fine dining restaurant industry. Michelin Star-rated restaurants in the two countries use many fine dining flowers to decorate food.

In the 17th century, these flowers were processed into jams, drinks, and sauces. Therefore, flower petals that used in dishes were no longer popular. However, the era of social media revived the habit of sprinkling flowers on food.

These fine-dining flowers are not only beautiful to look at but also useful. The paper “Fresh Edible Flowers of Ornamental Plants: A New Source of Nutraceutical Foods” published in the Journal of Food Science & Technology, reports that these flowers contain protein, flavonoids, iron, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamin A. (Pramitha Hendra)