Bell’Aroma puts flowers on your plate


The Flemish Brabant company Bell’Aroma has just opened a warehouse in Brussels for the food service industry to try and buy their edible flowers

Flowers for foodies

Even dedicated foodies who wouldn’t quail at eating head cheese or sheep intestines might find it a little bit odd to eat flowers. Aside from the odd nasturtium in a stir-fry or a stuffed zucchini flower, most of us confine our diet of plants to the green parts.

Edible flowers is a trend in gastronomy, however, and one of the leaders in the trade is Van Laethem. The company from Vlezenbeek, Flemish Brabant, opened a new warehouse in the European Centre for Fruit and Vegetables on Werkhuizenkaai in Brussels last week. “We’re number one in Belgium in the supply of fresh herbs, and among the leaders on a European level,” said John Van Laethem, eldest son of founders Armell and John senior.

The company has been selling edible flowers for 15 years, but because of the growing interest and demand for special herbs and miniature vegetables, it recently created Bell’Aroma to deal with that specialist trade.

The new warehouse is specifically for specialist herbs and flowers and will shortly include a packing facility upstairs, creating five to 10 new jobs – a welcome extra, according to Brussels-Capital Region minister Brigitte Grouwels, on hand to cut the ribbon.

Jean-Pierre Bruneau, chef of the restaurant Bruneau in Ganshoren, prepared a number of dishes for the occasion: a terrine of salmon and eel with sea bluebells (Mertensia maritima), a tiny bell-shaped blue flower with a strong flavour of oysters and the sea; a custard of Parmesan on a sauce of rocket, with tiny sprigs of the flowers of wild garlic (Allium ursinum); a salad of quail eggs, lardons and bitter leaves that included dandelion and sea bluebells.

Edible flowers range from the small and delicate, intended to give just a hint of flavour, to a mouthful, without dominating a dish. Those varieties include marguerites, fuchsias and tagetes (a member of the sunflower family), large and muscular enough in flavour to elbow the cutlet right off your plate.

“Chefs like Jean-Pierre Bruneau come by regularly,” John Van Laethem said. “We’re able to order what they need for them, and in some cases even grow it specially. We’re now growing basil flowers exclusively for a restaurant here in Brussels.”

Unfortunately the same service is not available to the rest of us: the European Centre is open to trade only. Van Laethem’s advice: your local greengrocer can obtain anything Bell’Aroma produces.