By Rachael Thatcher.
The idea of eating flowers might raise some eyebrows at first, but I’m not talking about chowing down on your average table arrangement. At Weatherlow Farms in Westport, they’re incorporating edible florals into salads, onto flatbreads, and most important—and delicious—into botanical sugar cookies.
“It’s funny, the idea was inspired by trying to think of products for the store that have something that appeals to the client and are true to the farm,” said founder Ryan Wagner. “We’re a livestock and flower farm, so we thought these [blossoms] would be a perfect integration.”
Chef Emily Whipple, a Westport resident who has been with the farm since 2018, took Ryan’s botanical cookie idea and ran with it, finalizing a recipe to make sugar cookies topped with florals that are “not too sweet, a little salty, and really buttery,” Emily explained.
Not only are the cookies soft and delicious, but they’re also works of art in and of themselves. The use of flower petals in the decoration adds an element of earthiness and creates an aesthetic that’s nothing less than Instagram-able. To make the magic happen, the farm’s flower manager Phoebe Poole works with Emily to seek out edible florals with vibrant colors.
“It just so happens that many of the flowers we’re growing as cut flowers are also edible, so while there’s certainly stuff that we’re foraging, most of the stuff that Emily’s using for the cookies is grown in [our] greenhouses,” Phoebe said.
Weatherlow has just over an acre of cut flowers. The flowers available change throughout the season, which lasts from May until at least the middle of October. “Stock—it sounds like a boring flower but is actually really beautiful. We’ll have those pretty much the whole season,” said Phoebe. “We’ve been using a lot of poppies, all edible. We’ve been playing with which shades we use and find that more saturated color is better for cooking with.”
At first, Emily was using dried flowers and herbs for the cookies. It worked, but she continued to get creative with different options and found that fresh petals were far more eye-catching.
Each cookie is unique, and in some Emily uses not just the petals but also the stamens, the pollen-producing part of the flower. “They kind of bleed into the cookie, it’s cool,” Emily exclaimed.
When selecting which florals to use, Phoebe is the expert. “One of my favorites is nigella, which comes in a lot of blue shades,” she said. “There are some flowers we grow just for culinary purposes, like nasturtiums. They don’t make great cut flowers but they’re really good for edible flowers,” Phoebe explained. “Mostly we’re trying to find things that work for both applications. It’s been so fun to have Emily transform [flowers] into food.”
Regardless of the time of year, or what’s in season, Emily keeps the recipe consistent. It’s always the same base, just with different flower variations. To elevate them even further with the ingredients she has on the farm, “I infuse the sanding sugar with lavender or lemon verbena. It’s subtle,” explained Emily.
The cookies are available for $2 apiece at the farm, where you also can purchase flowers and other products like stinging nettle leaf pesto, soup, and a variety of proteins including ground lamb, lamb shanks, and grass-fed beef.
To make these cookies at home, one option is to dive in completely by growing your own flowers. As mentioned by Phoebe, stock, poppies, and nasturtiums are perfect options for this. The blooms of radishes and squash are also edible, so gardeners can garner some home-grown vegetables along with the blossoms.
Herbs are relatively easy for those hesitant to try growing their own flowers. Emily and Phoebe use mint for some of the farm’s cookies. Other edible florals include hibiscus, lavender, pansies, dandelion, honeysuckle, chamomile, roses, sage, and violets, among others.
Those who might have a more flour-covered thumb than a green one can skip the growing altogether and purchase edible florals from a local farm like Weatherlow.
In making the cookies, Emily rolls out the dough and decorates it with botanicals before cutting out pieces with a cookie cutter. She combines any excess dough and rolls it out again to get the most out of it.
Emily had a few additional suggestions for use of what’s left over after baking the sweet treats. “We always use every part of the animal, every part of everything,” she said, a sentiment most can appreciate in this day and age. “We end up with a lot of egg white, because the cookies use a lot of yolk.” With those whites, Emily makes meringues, also topped with florals.
By turning to ingredients from the farm, Emily has been successful in creating unique, edible works of art. Goes to show that your next successful creation may be in your own backyard!
Botanical Sugar Cookies by Weatherlow Farms recipe: www.ediblesouthshore.com/fall/botanical-sugar-cookies
845 Sodom Road
Rachael Thatcher is a food writer based in New England. You can usually find her wandering through a farmer’s market, on a hike, or grilling in her backyard.