Say it with Flowers
I know, I know. You're a little but tired of all of those fussy dishes with flower petals strewn about that are supposed to seem whimsical and fantastic but in the end seem to be a letdown. I feel the same way. I've always felt that dishes decorated with flowers were superfluous because I don't like serving anything that can't be eaten and I don't often fancy a mouthful of daisies or lilacs. Second, adding flowers (or anything else) only for the aesthetic has always seemed to undermine the dish itself: if the food is good enough and presented to you with care and attention, you don't need to do anything else.
Having said that, one of the great benefits of coming to work at Casa Caponetti has been learning about how to use plants from the start of their lives to their finish, in all of their various stages. As a chef in New York, or London, I was delivered a crate of vegetables that had been picked and washed and sold because they were the best looking of the bunch, and that was their value. Here, I've had to muddle through seasons where the pickings are slim at times, and its forced me to be a lot more creative. And that's when I discovered flowers.
Because guess what? Everything that fruits also flowers and very often, the flowers of that plant will taste like a milder and often incredibly pleasant version of that fruit. So pea flowers taste like a very delicate pea, cucumber flowers like cucumber, and so on. In some cases (nightshades like peppers, tomatoes or eggplants) the flowers can't be eaten but in many cases you can and indeed should use them. The job of a plant is to spread itself around, to provide a handy landing pad for pollinating creatures; picking the flowers on your plants helps to keep them producing more flowers, which keeps them healthy.
So for all of you that are trying your hand at your first small garden, keep an eye out for flowers and add them into salads, risotto, or even with a roasted meat. I've done a number of dishes with wild and cultivated flowers and it always works really well. And I'll tell you, when I serve dishes covered in flowers I see the same look on people's faces as I have had on my own: that hesitant, "can I eat those?" that I would ask if I were in the same position. I tell them to dig in and eat it all.