Edible flowers more than just a pretty garnish — they taste good, too
Ruthven flower farm, Oxley winery team up to serve dishes featuring local flowers
Earlier this summer, my wife and I were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary at Oxley Estate Winery, one of the many wonderful wineries located along historic County Road 50.
We ordered a number of dishes, including a pea and edemame salad...
... sticky pickled duck wings ...
...and arctic char.
Each dish was very different, with incredibly distinct flavours — but there was one thing that kept showing up: flowers.
When I asked Aaron Lynn, the 31-year-old executive chef at Oxley Estate Winery, about the constant presence of flowers on his dishes, he told me it was a result of a partnership he had with Floramère Flowers, a flower farm in Ruthven that is in its second year of operation.
So, I decided to visit the farm to find out more.
Tucked away on a narrow road off Kingsville Road 5 East, Floramère Flowers is run by 32-year-old Natasha Chortos. Unhappy with her job as a graphics designer in Toronto, Chortos decided to move to Essex County to start a flower farm, inspired by time spent with her florist grandmother as a child.
Chortos' husband, Nathan, 33, grew up in Essex County and happened to be high school friends with Lynn.
When the chef found out about the floral business, he asked if she would be growing edible flowers. Chortos said she would, and so Lynn decided to incorporate them into his cooking.
It was experimental at first.
"Aaron came out to the farm and was just wandering through the fields and picking and eating everything," she said with a laugh. "And I'm just closely walking behind [saying] 'Don't eat that — that could hurt you!"
"Nothing hurt me, though," Lynn noted, grinning. "[I'm] indestructible."
The use of edible flowers wasn't something Lynn grew up with, or encountered very much in culinary school. "It was something that seemed like it was a lot more 1980s, kind of putting a flower on a plate for no reason," he said.
But after trying Chortos' flowers, he realized flowers don't just add visual appeal — they tasted good, too.
"I think the first time I started tasting nasturtiums, [I realized] 'Oh, this isn't just beautiful — which it totally is — but it has a real bite to it, it has a pepperiness, like a horseradish taste to it."
Today, Floramère grows and supplies about 10 edible flower varieties on an exclusive basis to Oxley.
"I think people are just tired of seeing microgreens all over the place," Lynn said. "Like, pea shoots are awesome ... but they don't have to be on every single plate."
Chortos notes that her flowers are used for more than just a tasty garnish.
"There's so many interesting ways that Aaron uses them," she said. "You can press them into pasta, he's making simple syrups, mixing into ice creams ... making butter. Imagination goes into it."
Tap on the player to hear Jonathan talk about edible flowers with Afternoon Drive guest host Emm Gryner.
Floramère Flowers are available every Saturday at the Downtown Windsor Farmers' Market. Oxley Estate Winery is 533 County Road 50 E. in Oxley, which is part of the Town of Essex.