Edible Flowers: The Good, the Bad, and the Possibly Toxic
Flowers are pretty. They say "I love you", "I'm sorry", and "Happy Birthday", with delicate petals, sweet perfume, and brilliant colours. And as Caker's know, they look GREAT on cakes.
Flowers can also be edible, from vaguely digestible to medicinal, but just what is safe to use? How do I prepare flowers for use on cakes? How do I know I'm buying food safe flowers? All good questions!
What is Edible?
Across all food ingredients, the tern "edible' causes some confusion. For starters, something that isn't toxic, isn't necessarily 'edible'. Pet food is non-toxic. Wanna split a can of Fido's finest? Yeah, me neither.
Edible is basically something that is safe for, and intended for, human consumption. There are a WHOLE stack of flowers and plants that are considered edible, including (but not limited too):
* Native Violets
* and some Rose varieties.
Here's where it gets tricky though, not ALL Roses are edible. Can you tell the difference? I can't. Even in flowers that are classed as safe, not all parts are edible! Leaves and stamens can be toxic!
Are you SURE the florist or plant seller providing the flowers can tell the difference? Enough to bet your clients health on it?
Can I buy a vowel??
Confused yet? It gets better. In researching this topic, and I found endlessly conflicting advice, some say one thing, another source the EXACT opposite! Criminey!
A perfect example, the hot Wedding favourite: Peonies.
According to some sources, you can make a lovely tea from the petals. Other sources say don't eat Peonies, they cause severe abdominal cramping, and other party favourites. Some say they are only dangerous in large quantities, others say sure unless you have an unknown allergy to peonies. Fun huh?!
Now obviously, unless you have invited Mr Ed to your Wedding, you're not expecting a guest to chow down the entire floral centrepiece, but you should still take every precaution to ensure the safety of your clients and guests, after all, that's what you are expected to do with all of your OTHER cake related ingredients.
So what IS good Floral to food practice?
* Only buy Certified Organic flowers, from reputable sellers. Depending on your cottage food laws, flowers from your garden, no matter how clean, might be considered in the same vein as eggs from your own chicken's, and may not be permissible. Check with your local Food Authority.
* Ensure ALL flowers are clean, bug free, and prepared for use on cakes. Whether its floral tape, 'Safety Seal', or posy pick, ensure that NO uncovered flower stems stick directly into cakes. Florists don't usually prepare flowers to this degree, so know what you are dealing with, BEFORE it comes time to assemble the cake.
* If you are using Fresh Flowers that may be toxic (in ANY concentration), make sure your customer is WELL AWARE of any potential risk, and take precautions to keep the flowers (which includes the stamens, pollen, and leaves), from touching the cake directly. It may even be a good idea to have the customer sign a waiver acknowledging the risk, or agreeing that anyone adding flowers to your cake, does so without your knowledge or consent.
Does it have to be fresh flowers?
There are lots of alternatives to fresh flowers on cakes!
You can buy pre dried, commercially prepared flowers, like these babies I got from Caker's Warehouse, you can use Sugar Flowers, which are not only an art in of themselves, but a beautiful keepsake, and of course, BUTTERCREAM FLOWERS!
Fresh flowers can be a less expensive option, as there isn't the workload of hand made flowers, but its important to take all factors into account before choosing your floral arrangement.
Dammit man, I'm a Cake Artist, not a Botanist!
At the end of the day, this advice, is just that, ADVICE. It cannot, and should not replace the direction of experts.
While I endeavour to bring you the most accurate information I can, it cannot replace the guidelines and laws of your local area. Check with your local Food Regulatory body for what regulations and restrictions you may face, and don't assume that someone else will take care of it. Apathy has no place in Food Preparation!
I have included the links below of the articles and Sources that I consulted for this post, including a link to the FDA's classification of Food Additives and Ingredients. If you sell food, I STRONGLY urge you to read your local areas version of this document.
Viva La Buttercream (and safe food practices!) xx