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Tasting Pansies

Martha Stewart Living, April 1998

Pansies and violas can have a mild, fresh flavor or a more prominent wintergreen taste depending on the variety and how much you eat (a whole flower tastes stronger than petals alone). Only eat flowers that are grown organically, without chemical pesticides. This rules out almost everything from florists, garden centers, and nurseries; it's a good idea to grow pansies yourself if you plan to consume them, or order from an edible-flower source.

A sprinkling of sugar gives flowers baked onto little scalloped sugar cookies a lovely, subtle iridescence.

As if a rich ganache coating weren't luscious enough, this cake is topped with intense jewel-toned pansies, their stems snipped to a quarter inch.

Perfect for a Mother's Day tea, lemon-curd tartlets have pansies beneath the glossy, clear apricot glaze; pansy leaves are scattered across the cake stand, and a little bouquet sits at the center.

An assortment of pansies floats atop icy watermelon cocktails.

Edible flowers can be crystallized using the following technique, which we learned from Toni Elling, who makes and sells these flowers through her company, Meadowsweets. These flowers are best reserved for ornamental use because they are coated with raw egg whites, which should not be consumed by pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health is compromised. Powdered egg whites can be used instead. Wait for a dry day; an air-conditioned room is an excellent work area. Put flower stems in water while you assemble materials: Dilute an egg white with a few drops of water; fill a small bowl with extra-superfine sugar; cover a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper; and have a pair of small, sharp scissors and tweezers handy. Clip flower stem as close to base as possible; snip off sepals (the green flaps on back of flower). Hold what's left of stem with tweezers; use your fingers to coat flower with egg white, pressing egg white into petals, and lifting petals to reach overlapping areas. Lay flower face down on the back of your hand to smooth it and remove excess egg white. Pinch base with tweezers again, hold flower face up over bowl of sugar, and sprinkle sugar over flower once, quickly but generously. Turn it over immediately; tap tweezers firmly with spoon to release excess sugar. Sugar back of flower with one or two coats. It is important to cover every bit of flower -- the sugar shell preserves it. Place face up on waxed paper or parchment. Set tray in a dry place for about eight hours, or until flowers feel crisp. Crystallized flowers will keep up to one year: Line an airtight container with soft padding, like Easter grass or excelsior (available at crafts stores), then lay a piece of tulle on top. Arrange crystallized flowers in a single layer on tulle, then top with another piece of tulle. Add more layers until container is full. Store at room temperature.

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