Marius Auda is managed by his father, Gilbert Auda, and his two children, Bernard and Mireille. They started growing flowers in 2004 in response to a demand from local upscale restaurants who were already purchasing their line of unusual herbs. Mireille Auda says that there is now a growing demand from home cooks:
“We sell them in some big supermarkets and people come here to buy them. I’m looking for a way to sell them on the internet to meet growing demand, but currently a 125g jar at 10 € will cost the equivalent in postage so I’m trying to find a way to sell it along with other products at making it worthwhile for the customer.
She is passionate about growing flowers and discovering their different tastes and uses in cooking:
“We have flowering plants all year round. Pansies, for example, are present in winter but not in summer. It is truly uplifting to develop a culture that is colorful even on the grayest days.
Most of the flowers are found in gardens, such as cosmos, marigolds, nasturtium, dahlia, and phlox. It is common knowledge that some like nasturtium or borage flowers can be eaten, but others are more surprising like tuberous begonia flowers:
“They have a delicious lemon flavor and since they are quite fleshy flowers, they also have a good texture. You can also eat their leaves which taste the same.
She says you need to remember that not all flowers are edible and they have a list of which to eat and which are poisonous on their website. She also advises against eating them in nurseries for display in the garden, as they have likely been grown using several different pesticides and herbicides.
“Since the 1980s we have been controlling pests using predatory insects where possible and using natural plant liquid fertilizers and green manures to improve soil quality. We only use chemicals as a last resort, but on as few plants as possible. Each of our factories has its history digitally recorded so that each can be traced. ”
They choose their plants for taste, and the flowers have a wide range of flavors to go with different dishes, strong, spicy, lemony, peppery, and sweet. Ms. Auda says that they are not there just for their beautiful colors as decoration, but to be eaten and savored:
“Hyssop has a strong licorice and mint flavor. Sweet alsysum has a honey scent but a surprising peppery taste like arugula. Borage flowers have a flavor reminiscent of the sea and they and their leaves have traditionally been eaten around Nice for centuries in risottos, omelets and soup.
“The flowers can be eaten raw, but the leaves must be cooked and have a more pronounced taste. If you love oysters, you will love their taste. Top chefs are now increasingly using leaves to wrap sushi instead of seaweed. “
Another plant traditionally used on the French Riviera, she says, is marigold, marigold, or Calendula officinalis:
“It was always called ‘poor man’s saffron’ in this region and it can be used to flavor and color dishes in the same way as the exotic spice. French marigold, marigolds, can also be used for flavor. It is a flower that should not be eaten raw but cooked in boiling water like a bouquet garni, to flavor a risotto or in a pumpkin soup for example, with its spicy taste. of curry.
Others that she favors for their pronounced taste are a variety of garlic close to that found in the wild where the root does not develop but where the flowers and leaves are infused with aroma of garlic, and pineapple sage, where the red flowers taste like the fruit it is named after.
Root fennel is not cultivated for the vegetable but for its flowers which taste the same anise, and the flowers of a mild Lebanese variety of cucumber are particularly good in salads.
She says most flowers are used raw to decorate and add flavor to dishes. There are only a few, such as borage, marigold, nasturtium or zucchini flower leaves that are cooked. They are used in savory and sweet dishes, and pansy and rose petals can easily be crystallized by dipping them in egg white and then in fine sugar and letting them dry for use as cake decorations.
Many flowers are renowned for their high nutritional value, rich in minerals and vitamins. Nasturtiums, for example, contain vitamin C.
Growing plants requires great attention to detail and knowledge of individual plants:
“We are fortunate to be in a favorable microclimate located in a valley between sea and very sunny mountains. They are grown in greenhouses to better manage their conditions.
“Either we grow from seeds or we buy seedlings. It is a year round activity as they all have different growing seasons. They are grown under glass. Some are in pots because they produce more flowers with less space for the roots and others, which need more space, are in the ground. The harvest is done entirely by hand. Each flower should be cut individually when ready, and you imagine that for something like borage, which has very small flowers, it can be very tricky, especially since it should not be damaged and each must be in perfect condition. They are labor intensive and that is why they are expensive.
She says they are one of the few large-scale flower growers in France, although there are a few small growers who have a few flowers on the fringes of their main crops.
Once cut, the flowers are packed and sent to customers as quickly as possible. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two hours, but it’s best to eat them as fresh as possible. It is not recommended to wash them because water could damage them and spoil their flavor.
20 nasturtium flowers
2 eggs separated
25cl of milk
1 teaspoon of olive oil
- Combine the flour, egg yolks, a pinch of salt and olive oil and add the milk little by little.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff and add them to the mixture. Season.
- Dip the flowers one by one in the mixture to cover them and then fry them in a deep fryer.
- They are ready when golden and can be eaten as an aperitif or with a salad.
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