40 Ingredient Salad

GUEST POST: Follow our associate editor Jill Buchner as she recounts the story of one of the best salads she’s ever had.

Chances are you’ve been served a show-stopping dish at some point in your life. A dish that excites and delights your tastebuds. A dish that shows up on the table in front of you as a work of art, a masterpiece painted with lively colours, textures and flavours.

But chances are that dish wasn’t a salad.

Recently, on a trip to Aruba, I had the privilege of enjoying such a show-stopping dish and, what made it even more remarkable, was that it was composed entirely of fresh vegetables and flowers. I just couldn’t resist sharing it with you.

The salad!

This salad was crafted using almost 40 ingredients by White Modern Cuisine’s Chef Urvin Croes and local forager Frank Kelly. Although a couple of the ingredients had been shipped in, the salad was meant to celebrate the beautiful array of fresh produce local to Aruba. It was a foodie’s dream.

In addition to delicate greens, a prickly exotic-looking cucumber and a salsa-like preparation of sweet tomatoes, the salad contained a bouquet’s worth of local flowers that added a vibrant esthetic and special flavour nuances. It was all pulled together with Croes’s delicious almond paste that balanced out the garden of fresh flavours.

Frank Kelly, the forager who collected the Arubian flowers, explained some of them to me:

  • The white orchid-like flower – a Moringa – comes from a bean plant and had a sharp taste with a note of salt.
  • The white flower with a splash of purple – a Ratonero – had a sweet, nutty taste.
  • The white petal with a prominent splash of pink – from a frangipane, a flower that grows throughout the island – had a fruity taste that harmonized with other ingredients.
  • The orange flower – a Kawara – was buttery in flavour and added brilliant colour.
  • The small dark purple blossom – a Flor di angel – was sweet and, according to Kelly, “it’s the mojo of the salad.”

Forager Frank Kelly

 

Kelly’s life is rooted in foraging. His grandmother gathers coconuts to harvest their oil for medical and beauty treatments. His mother, who is from Colombia, learned to gather plants and herbs for medical uses, and so Kelly learned early on to appreciate the value of local plants. Today, he operates his foraging business under the name Taki, which means (in the Arubian language Papiamento) something that springs from something else, like a branch. That’s because his innovative and sustainable cooking springs from methods Arubians have used to survive on the island in the past.

But you don’t need to be a lifelong forager to make a masterpiece like Kelly and Croes’s. You just need an innovative eye for produce and a similar love for your home. Try growing your own backyard greens and veggies, and collecting edible flowers such as violets or clovers for your own unique salad.

Kelly says, “Foraging is a lifestyle and it has always expanded my horizons. I love my island to the bones and will keep searching in the magic of it.”