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Edible flowers spruce up springtime menus in Las Vegas

Blossoms proliferate this time of year, inspiring chefs to add them to their plates. Edible flowers generally are available all year, but they seem especially suited to spring menus.

“I think the gourmet chef especially loves it,” said Kerry Clasby, the self-identified Intuitive Forager who operates the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market on Friday mornings. “They just make the plate look beautiful.”

“Everyone likes them,” said Jeff Martell, executive chef at Oscar’s steakhouse at the Plaza. “It gives a little pop on the plate, a little different color.”

But while the visual value is obvious, chefs say the flowers also contribute to overall flavor.

Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal

“I think it adds a little bit extra to the dish as far as visual and flavor,” said Stephen Blandino, chef/owner of Americana restaurant. “I’m using violas right now, pansies, marigolds. They’re like a substitute for saffron. They have a citrus flavor. We use them in salad.”

Wilfried Bergerhausen, executive chef of Le Cirque at Bellagio, noted that saffron is itself part of a flower. He said not only the look but also the flavor of the flower has to make sense to him. He uses mostly herb flowers such as cilantro and fennel, and also the stem of the fennel flower. Bergerhausen said he’s currently preparing foie gras with elderflowers and carrots with brown butter and chamomile flowers.

Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal

Dalton Wilson, co-owner and executive chef at DW Bistro, said he started using edible flowers on his pesto torte and now employs them in many dishes, including brunch items such as eggs Benedict.

“It adds a nice beautiful touch,” he said. “The flavor’s always good. You’re going to get a lot of citrus, sometimes a little bitterness or a bit of nuttiness.”

For summer, he suggests putting an array of edible flowers in frozen pops.

“Your kids will love it by the pool and it’ll look beautiful,” he said.

Wilson said not all of his customers are comfortable eating flowers.

Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal

“If they’re not familiar with it they’re a little taken aback, but most of our customers love it,” he said.

Bergerhausen said Le Cirque uses an educational approach.

“We always describe it and try to get them to taste it one by one,” he said. For example, when serving a crab and caviar dish, the server tells the guest to bite on the stem of the fennel flower.

Clasby said there are two types of edible flowers, wild and cultivated. Sorrel and nasturtium are particularly attractive, she said, and grow wild on her farm in Malibu.

Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal

As summer approaches, the current mix of wild and cultivated edible flowers available at the farmers market will tend toward the latter, she added.

“We have pansies, marigolds — all the other cultivated ones that we bring in,” she said. “We have a farmer who grows them in Sandy Valley.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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