Soon it will be officially spring – but here in Victoria the pansies and primroses have been blooming for quite a while! So of course, for the past few weeks, I’ve been plotting how to best eat them. The pansies delicate sweet scent and pretty colours make them popular as candied blossoms or garnishes, but sadly their mild flavour is often destroyed with cooking. Primrose (or primula) are more often used in Europe in curds and puddings, but for the most part, their flavour also dissipates when heated. I wanted to find a way to use them both fresh – so voila this “no bake” coconut-oat ball was born. And as it’s made with coconut oil its officially vegan, not to mention gluten-free.
Now eating flowers may seem like a bit of fancy, but it’s a great way to get more health-promoting flavonoids into your diet. Flavonoids are phytonutrients found in brightly coloured fruits, vegetables – and flowers! Powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits, diets rich in flavonoids have been associated with reduced risk in a variety of diseases. One study found that women who consumed the most flavonoids were the most likely to reach the age of 70 with no chronic or serious health problems.
But aside from their health-promoting benefits, I just love the sheer romance and old world magic associated with these flowers. The primula (commonly called the primrose) derived its name from the Latin primus (meaning first or first rose) because it is the first flower to bloom each spring. In the British Isles, they were reputed to be particularly loved by the faeries. A large patch of primroses was considered a gateway or portal into the faerie realms. Placing primroses on a doorstep was said to encourage the faeries to bless the house and all who lived there. And if you ate the blossoms of a primrose you would see a fairy!
Primroses and polyanthus are all primulas which are the botanical name of their species. Primula vulgaris is the most common variety featuring flowers on individual stems growing from the centre of the plant. Polyanthus (meaning ‘many flowers’) has a thick stalk with a bunch of flowers on it – like a high-rise primrose. While these were once wild in Europe they are mostly bedding plants today, and as biennials will reseed themselves and remain growing in the garden sometimes for several seasons.
The vast majority of pansies today are also bedding plants beloved for their nearly all year blooms. All pansies are cultivated versions of a European wildflower known as Viola or Viola tricolor which is also heavily featured in fairy folklore and is commonly associated with love magic. While the Viola is bursting with nutrients and medicinal ingredients, I’m not sure if these greenhouse varieties pack the same punch, but I’m sure some of Viola’s healing properties must remain. (Just exercise caution when consuming pansies from big box stores or supermarkets, because it is likely they have been treated with pesticides.)
I love that these Primrose & Pansy Coconut-Oat Balls not only actually looks fit for a fairy feast, but is so incredibly easy to make. I picked about two cups of blossoms fresh from the garden, which was the hardest part because they were just so darn pretty – but I know they’ll come back better than ever. I chopped the petals up finely and then added them to the oat, coconut, coconut oil and honey mixture.
Primrose and Pansy Coconut-Oat Bars
- 1 cup diced flower petals
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1-2 tsp of lemon zest
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (save a few sprinkles for garnish)
- Tbsp of Icing Sugar (optional – used to dust the finished balls.)
- Melt coconut oil, honey, salt, vanilla extract, cardamom and zest together in a saucepan.
- When liquid mixture melts turn the heat down to low, add the oats and coconut and stir to coat.
- Continue warming on low heat for just a couple minutes to allow the ingredients to soften (this will help them stick together better).
- For bars: Line a small baking dish with parchment paper leaving the sides of the paper hanging over the sides of the dish.
- Once your oat mixture has cooled, fold in your shredded flower petals. Stir until flowers are distributed throughout the mixture.
- Now roll your balls with your hands into the size you’d like. For bars, press your oat mixture into the pan as evenly and firmly as you can. ( I like to use the back of a spatula). If you want balls now is the time to roll them, making sure you squeeze and compress them tightly together.
- Place your bar mixture or balls in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely- at least two hours, but best overnight.
- For bars, remove the oat mixture from parchment paper and with a sharp knife cut into approximately a dozen small bars.
- Sprinkle with shredded coconut, a wee bit of lemon zest and then dust with icing sugar. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.