Rooted in Flavor: Edible flowers enhance taste and add floral flair to recipes at area eateries

Flowers aren’t just for gardens, centerpieces or your amateur perfume-making hobby. Victorians used violets and primroses in salads, ancient Romans made love potions with mustard flowers, and for years the French have used carnations to make chartreuse liqueur. D.C. chefs and mixologists have become petal pushers, too. “It’s nose to tail, but with plants,” says Cork Wine Bar’s executive chef, Rob Weland. “People are trying to use every part in every season.”

Casa Oaxaca

“We have one refrigerator filled with flowers and desserts that looks like a florist crossed with a candy shop,” says chef-owner Karen Barroso, who uses bright yellow squash blossoms to make her Tamale de Flor de Calabaza (squash blossom tamale, $12). She begins by mixing masa (corn dough) and epazote (a cilantro-like herb) with whatever she’s feeling inspired by — freshly shaved corn when it’s in season, spicy poblano peppers or queso fresco (crumbly and mild Mexican cheese). She heaps this mixture onto a banana leaf and tops it with a couple bright yellow squash blossoms flown in fresh from California. “The flowers add a mild squash flavor,” she says. “And a beautiful flash of color.”

Casa Oaxaca, 2106 18th St. NW; 202-387-2272. (Dupont Circle)

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Photo courtesy of Casa Oaxaca.