Food and Drink 

Here's to flower power!

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Likely the most common flowers every good Canadian eats without thinking for a minute we're doing so are broccoli and cauliflower. In both cases we're munching down immature or unopened flower structures - buds and their supporting infrastructure.

Although not quite as common on dinner tables here as they are in the U.S., artichokes are another common bud we eat. They're the giant flower buds of a thistle known as Cynara scolymus, a native of the Mediterranean region and a distant relative of the cardoon, which no doubt manipulated some ancient Greeks or their neighbours into cross-breeding it to develop bigger and better edible buds.

The heart of the artichoke, says David McGee in his wonderfully informative book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, is the flower base. Scientifically, it corresponds to the fleshy portion of the strawberry and the fig.

Capers are the pickled flower buds of an evergreen bush also common in the Mediterranean region. And you might have enjoyed an iced tea or fruity punch made with the red petals of a kind of hibiscus, also know as jamaica (pronounced ha-MY-ka), which is remarkable for its concentration of vitamin C, phenolic antioxidants and pectin.

Saffron, of course, is simply the dried stigmas and styles from the flowers of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), while rose water has long been used in baklava and Turkish delight, and orange water flavours everything from Moroccan salads and stews to Turkish coffee.

So are you feeling braver now about arming yourself with some flower power for your next summer supper?

If so, Pemberton farms such as North Arm Farm and Ice Cap Organics are pedalling petals for your delight.

Jordan Sturdy at North Arm Farms says daylily flowers are among his favourites. Smooth and velvety with a little crunch, he and his wife, Trish, will cook them or take them apart and use them in salads. They're eaten both fresh and dried in Asia, where dried day lily buds are also called "golden needles."

The Sturdys also sprinkle bright yellow-orange calendula petals and blue bachelor button petals through North Arm salad mixes for a pretty confetti effect.

Nasturtium blooms are also popular. Try them in salads or on ice cream, suggests Delany Zayac at Ice Cap Organics. They're pretty to look at either way, and hold up with their robust earthy, spicy flavour that hints at mustard.

A more exotic favourite are squash blossoms. Stuffed or battered and fried, their aroma is musky and complex with green, almond and spicy notes.

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