A couple of days ago I mentioned collecting some celery pollen from the garden, and a few readers wanted to know more about it.
Actually, I'm harvesting the flowers of celery plants; I haven't quite gone as far as knocking off the pollen by itself.
The celery plants are all done being celery, but as they try to bolt into seed-bearing fornicators (all plants really want to do is reproduce themselves; we humans just like eating their young), the flowering tops have developed into tender, feathery, delicious morsels.
Why don't we think about eating vegetable flowers more?
I almost ripped out the bed of celery after the stalks got woody and inedible, but I had an idea: What if I let it go to seed, and then I'd have home-grown celery seeds? Cool!
Well, the seeds haven't appeared yet, but I needed something celery-ish the other day. I bit into a tiny green bud, and it was amazing. The flavor is celery, to be sure, but a little less crazy. (The celery I grew over the winter was shockingly intense-tasting.)
So far we have incorporated celery blossoms into stock, minestrone, tuna salad, and (of course) Bloody Marys. You just trim off the flowers, and voilà, instant mirepoix.
Aha, you say. Mirepoix includes onions and carrots, non?
Mais oui. Which gives me the opportunity to talk about onion flowers. (We are not growing carrots yet.)
Onion flowers! OMG, they are tender and oniony, but a bit less gaseous than true onion bulbs. In other words, perfect. In fact, not all my onions performed perfectly underground, but this floral crop more than makes up for it.
My only concern now is using up the celery and onion flowers as soon as I can, or figuring out a way to preserve them. I am drying some in the sun, and it seems fine. I may also try a quick blanch in boiling water, then into plastic bags in the freezer.
What other flowers should I be eating? I know about squash blossoms, rosemary flowers and nasturtiums. I also gather wild fennel pollen once in a while. Candied violets, roses, johnny jump-ups. Lavender, now and then. (And I'm trying to forget about the petal-strewn salads at Chez Panisse in the '80s, though they were pretty.)