Flowers have featured in numerous posts here over the years, but it appears that I have not so far covered the gorgeous and eminently edible chrysanthemum. I was reminded of this when I came across the following recipe in a Welsh newspaper, the Western Mail of January 26, 1895.
This is an adoption by the French from the artistic and saving Japanese, who use quantities of plants as foods that we reject as useless weeds. The Japanese serve the leaves and flowers after boiling them with soy; or the roots, boiled, are eaten with soy and sugar. The French first boiled them with cloves, and mixed them with truffles when serving. Now they are served raw with mayonnaise dressing or plunged into boiling salted water and cooked for twenty minutes. Drain and at once cover them with the French dressing. Let stand until thoroughly cold: serve with French dressing and garnish with fresh blossoms. A few years ago the Duchess de la Torre, who has a Parisian celebrity as chef, gave a dinner at which the salad was said to be the greatest triumph which had been achieved by cookery in the last half of the nineteenth century. The salad displayed the colours of the rainbow, being arranged in layers of multi-coloured chrysanthemums, intermingled with dark and light violets and rose petals. In the centre a mound of delicate green mayonnaise rose above the surrounding blossoms, and was dotted with tiny orange blossoms. The salad lay on a marvelous cut-glass dish, garnished with tiny white lettuce leaves and brilliant nasturtiums. The chrysanthemum salad is a delight to the eye, but has not yet largely appealed to the English palate.
Doesn’t that sound like a wonderfully elegant dish?
The only chrysanthemum product I have any familiarity with is chrysanthemum tea, but familiarity is not knowledge, so I went in search of some interesting snippets. I didn’t find any interesting anecdotes or factoids on this favourite Oriental beverage, but I did come across an idea I had never heard of before – a ladies ‘Chrysanthemum Tea’ as an American social event.
It was briefly fashionable in American cities in the first years of the 1890’s to hold a luncheon party themed around the chrysanthemum. These events were held in late summer and early autumn, and were often part of a fund-raising project. Strangely, I did not find any reference to chrysanthemums being an ingredient in the light repasts offered at these functions, although there was one to the ice-cream being moulded in the form of the flower, which does sound rather lovely. An article in the Janesville Gazette (Wisconsin) of November 20, 1891 explained the novel form of entertainment:
Mrs Walter Helms Entertained her Friends in a Novel Way.
Pyramids and quaint shapes, grotesque fans and pretty parasols graced Mrs Walter Helms’ pretty house on the event of the chrysanthemum tea given to her friends this afternoon. The pyramids, parasols, and fans were all composed of chrysanthemums. There were all colors and all shapes. Besides these proofs of the florists skill, the “queen of the autumn” graced the tables in tastefully arranged jars and bowls.
The “chrysanthemum tea” is a new thing in Janesville, and the ladies who enjoyed Mrs. Helms’ hospitality were much pleased. About fifty guests were present this afternoon, and tomorrow an equal number of younger married ladies will be entertained.
The display of flowers was very effective. A large number of prize blossoms had been sent from Chicago for the occasion and the finest blooms were reserved and given to the ladies as souvenirs of a most enjoyable event.
I hope, my dear readers, that at least one or two of you are now inspired to hold your own floral ‘tea’ – be it nasturtium, rose, marigold, violet, or any other flower that you love. Make sure you use them in the food or beverages too!