Sandy Lane gets excited when she talks about eating flowers.
Red buds, apple blossoms, violets, the herb rosemary’s lavender blooms, petunias, pansies, violas, calendula, marigolds, and more.
The horticulturist who is director of the Compensated Work Therapy greenhouse program at the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center spoke to a packed afternoon session at the Herb Faire at the Salem Museum on April 20.
She brought elegant examples for tasting: violas topping lemon curd tarts, petunias with cream cheese filling, redbud flowers on cheese and crackers, strawberry salad with violets and a variety of other edible flowers, and both cake and lemonade that tasted like roses.
The lemonade had rose water in it; her pink-iced cake was baked with leaves of rose geranium lining the cake pans. “But peel off the leaves after baking and discard them,” she advised.
And frosting couldn’t have been simpler: “I wrapped a stick of butter in rose geranium leaves and let it sit overnight,” Lane said.
People pronounced the flower-topped tarts “Almost too pretty to eat.” But they ate them.
Lane’s biggest caution to her attentive listeners in the museum’s second-floor meeting room was to find out if flowers they are considering eating really are edible, and to be sure the blossoms are some they raised themselves or have been grown without poisons and other chemicals.
If you don’t know if a flower is edible, look it up, she suggested. “Google everything with the phrase, ‘Is this edible?'”
She has no qualms about kids who tour the CWT greenhouse and beds tasting edible growing things. “I show them how to snack on the edible flowers because we don’t spray anything,” she pointed out.
Walter’s Greenhouse provided the herbs sold at the faire, which included a “Plant an Herb Pot” station, classes on how to use fresh and dried herbs, instructions on making Herbs de Provence, using Asian herbs, air drying herbs, designing an herb garden and ways to lure butterflies and beneficial insects to your garden.
Lane’s recipes were in the “2013 Herb Faire Recipes and Gardening Tips” book given out to participants at the Herb Faire. The event was sponsored by the museum, Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Roanoke Office, Roanoke Master Gardener Association, Master Food Volunteers, the Herb Society of America Roanoke Unit, and friends of herbs and the museum.