It’s that time of year when the weather begins to warm, local farmers’ market are getting ready for their season opening, and the seeds you started indoors weeks ago have sprouted. Today, however, I’m dishing out more than just your garden variety veggies. We’re going gourmet with edible botanicals – leaves, flowers, herbs, plants, and plant mixes that do more than just pretty up the plate.
Since we eat with our eyes long before we take a bite, we appreciate the role garnish plays on a plate. Think color, freshness and overall presentation. But, why pick useless shrub when the right trim can work wonders?
Edible botanicals – leaves, flowers, greens, herbs, and plants add vibrancy, flare, flavor and function. Dressing up a dish with an orchid – neutral in taste and lavender or purple in color, adds snap without sacrificing flavor. A begonia mix boasts a zesty, crisp, tart finish – the perfect blend for a delightful citrus salad. Or spread it around a savory seafood platter in place of lime or lemon. The pretty pink petals of begonias (comes in white too) with bright yellow centers adds just the right amount of radiance for spring and summer entertaining.
The appropriate finish can also take fare from palatable to perfection. For example, a mint mix will enhance the flavor of lamb, while it’s small, delicate, bright green leaves create a stark contrast to the seared, crusted exterior of the meat.
I’m an island girl so whenever possible or as appropriate I mix in as much of the Caribbean into my culinary creations as I can get away with. And with edible botanicals I get away with quite a bit! Shoot, it’s literally a field of dreams. And the spring and summer seasons my playground – with plenty of plants to play with on my plate. The bounty of veggies and flowers found in the Caribbean are endless. Hibiscus, sorrel, cilantro, onion, turnip, thyme, mint, rosemary, orchid… Did you know Jamaica has over 200 species of orchid? Not to mention herbs. You know Jamaica has herb!
Now that you’re familiar with what’s on the market, here’s how to ensure you get the most use of your petite produce. Keep fresh by refrigerating immediately. Suppliers generally guarantee freshness for up to a week. However, I find that by keeping them in their original packaging, sealing in an airtight zipper bag then storing in the refrigerator you can squeeze out an extra 2 or more days.
Whatever your taste, go for plating that’s more than pretty. Elevate the experience by choosing the right green and go from garnish to gourmet!
Note: Samples for the attached photo provided by Gourmet Sweet Botanicals.