The Gift of Garnish: Remember when every plate of food you ordered at a restaurant came with a sprig of parsley? Often it stood out as the only bright green item of the meal, even when it was off-color and droopy. When I was a kid I would eat my garnish first and then ask anyone else in the family for theirs if they weren’t going to eat it – they gladly passed it on to me. Later I realized that this instinctual reach for the green was just my way of satisfying the need for mineral rich nutrition and may have been the healthiest portion on my plate! Today, dining has expanded its repertoire with colorful flowers like nasturtium, mustard, calendula, violets and a variety of greenery gracing the plate. While this décor is seldom washed, it still might be one of the more nutrient-dense items of your meal and worth eating. In any case – you can get into the healthful habit of garnishing your meals at home.
Summer is the time to celebrate the beauty and bounty of the year and encourages us to extend that into the most mundane aspects of our lives. A fun way to do so is adorning your meals with flowers or their petals: rose, calendula, violet, pansy, lilac, borage, rosemary, lavender, sunflower, English daisy, fennel, dill, chicory, bee balm, edible chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, cornflower, all sages, chive, dandelion, clover, jasmine, elderflower, orange/citrus, oregano and chamomile. Most flowers from your vegetable patch like cabbage, chard, kale, cilantro, collards, carrots, lettuce (all the ones that bolt on you!) dress-up your food as well. The same simple meal or snack can transform into art and feel like a fine-dining experience.
Best of all – eating the decoration boosts your antioxidants and provides pigments that nourish your vision. Besides, their chemical complexity imparts wild-world information to your ever-engaged immune system. Flowers are too delicate to wash, just dust them off a bit because they carry minute amounts of pollen and soil microbes that strengthen your intestinal flora (where much of our immunity is). Naturally, you don’t want to pick wild foods along roadsides and places that spray. Green garnishes like parsley, cilantro, citrus peel, oregano (all the culinary herbs) usually do get rinsed and add extra zest to the plate as well. Garnishing is playful and will add joy to your meals.