Crystallize primroses to preserve their pretty blossoms long into summer. This simple recipe also works for other edible flowers and requires just a few common ingredients
Primroses are one of the first flowers to bloom each year. I smile to see them open their petals so early – weeks ahead of our other more familiar spring blossoms. They’re easily torn in the wind and battered by rain and weather, and one way to preserve their fleeting beauty is as crystallized edible flowers. I’m going to take you through this creative spring project, and in the end, you’ll have beautiful crystallized primroses to use as a decoration for cupcakes, larger cakes, and desserts.
Popular in Victorian times, edible flowers are enjoying something of a comeback. Instagram is awash with edible flower masterpieces and you see them used fresh on everything from tiered wedding cakes to fancy cocktails and salads. Both delicate and fleeting, edible flowers are expensive to purchase but easy to grow In your home garden. While you can of course use them fresh, there are also ways to preserve them. The edible flower ice-cubes that you’ll find in my book, but also pretty crystallized flowers. They’re not in a real crystal but rather coated in sugar that hardens and preserves the petals.
Primrose flowers are Edible
Primroses are one of the most common and beautifully simple spring flowers – and they also happen to fall into the edible category. Though I don’t think they taste like much on their own, coated in a fine layer of sugar they become a sweet botanical artwork. Crystalized primroses have a shelf-life of up to six months and are a beautifully sweet and natural decoration that you can use on desserts and cakes and save for a special occasion.
When finished, the flowers are hard and sugary and the petals inside are fully dried. Think of crystallized flowers as dried flowers rather than fresh, since both the egg wash and sugar dry and preserve the petals for months.
Primroses come in a range of colors
Primroses are low-growing plants with a rosette of tongue-like green leaves. When they come into flower, simple open blossoms form on thin stems that grow from the center. In colder climates, the plants are herbaceous perennials that die back each autumn. In regions with mild winters, primroses are semi-evergreen perennials and can flower right through the colder months.
The flowers’ color varies, but they range from a creamy yellow to vibrant magenta, purple, and red. The softer yellow-hue is the color of native cowslips (Primula veris) and true primroses (Primula vulgaris) that pepper hedgerows in early spring. The brighter-hued primroses that you see as bedding plants are also of the Primula genus. This highly cultivated and hybridized type is called polyanthus, or Primrose polyanthus (Primula polyantha), and like true primroses, they’re also edible.
Please keep in mind is that many of the primroses sold as bedding plants could be sprayed with chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides meant to keep the flowers in peak condition until their sale. Avoid these ones if you’re looking for edible flowers. Only use organically-grown flowers in edible flower recipes, including those that could be growing in your garden right now.
How to Make Crystallized Primroses
- Clean paintbrush
- Grease-proof paper
- 24 primrose flowers Or other edible flowers (see list further on)
- 1 egg white
- 1 tsp cold water
- 1/4 cup granulated white sugar 50 g
- Pick the primroses the same day, and preferably within an hour of this project. Morning is best when the flowers are perky and filled with dew. If you’re sure the flowers are clean, then you don’t need to wash them. If you do rinse them, you must let the flowers dry completely before continuing.
- Make an egg wash by lightly beating the white of one egg with a teaspoon of cold water.
- Using a clean paintbrush that has never been in contact with potentially toxic substances (oil paint, etc.), paint the egg wash on a flower. Make sure to coat the entire surface, both front, and back.
- Pour the sugar into a bowl and once you’ve coated the flower in egg wash, place the flower in with the sugar. Gently coat as much of the flower’s surface as you can, then take it out and put the flower face-down on a layer of greaseproof/baking paper. Leave to try for between 1-2 days; primroses can take about a day to dry and harden but can take longer.
- Once fully dry, you can use the crystallized primroses to decorate cakes, cupcakes, and desserts. They’re also so pretty that they’d be perfect for giving as a handmade gift too.
- Crystallizedprimroses can last for up to six months if stored in a dark, dry place. A Tupperwarefilled with a cushioning layer of tissue paper is an excellent way to keep them. Spread them on the paper in a single layer so that the flowers don’t stick together.
Crystallized Edible Flowers
Use this method to crystallize edible flowers ranging from lightly-peppery calendula to cucumber-flavored borage blossoms. When working with thicker flowers or petals, either dry them in a warm place to speed up the drying time or separate the petals and crystallize them individually. There are a few delicious edible flower recipes here on Lovely Greens including elderflower champagne and dark chocolate Turkish delight. If you want to experiment with other edible flowers, here are some to try:
- Angelica – celery flavored
- Borage (Starflower) – cucumber flavored
- Burnet – lightly flavored like cucumber
- Calendula (pot marigold) – lightly peppery
- Carnation (Pink) – spicy and anise-like
- Chamomile – light apple flavor.
- Chives – onion flavor
- Gladioli – lettuce flavor
- Hollyhock – no definable flavor
- Impatiens – no definable flavor
- Jasmine – sweet and floral
- Lavender – fragrant and floral
- Lilac – lemony and floral (can be bitter)
- Nasturtium – peppery
- Pansy – lightly sweet to tart
- Primrose – lightly sweet to no flavor
- Rose – sweet and aromatic. Use only the colored parts of the petals
- Runner and Climbing Beans – crisp and bean-like
- Scented Geraniums – faintly citrusy
- Snapdragon – no flavor to bitter
- Squash & Pumpkin Flowers – sweet
- Sunflower – may be slightly bitter but adds a lot of color
- Violet – sweet and floral