Whoa-ho-ho, now you’re talking Trader Joe – a product so seemingly mad that I would never have dreamed of its existence.
Pepper – and FLOWERS?!? This is already well beyond the range of even the craziest food mash ups I’ve ever heard of. I mean, we’re talking about a food mashed up with a decidedly non-food product. That I’ve got to respect. Let’s just look at the ingredients: Black Peppercorn (natch), Rose Petals, Calendula, Lavender, Cornflower. I don’t even know what calendula is.
I’ll be honest; this is exactly the sort of product I go to Trader Joe’s every week hoping to find. Something so outlandish that no sane buyer could ever be expected to purchase it, yet marketed right next to the brownie mix. This is where I, Trader Joe’s Taste Tester, come in – give me the goddamn desiccated flowers, I’m ready to rock.
But first, a digression.
I am amazingly slow to learn, but a few lessons have slowly crept their way into my brain over the last 28 years, and one is that product mash ups which sound like they may be terrible almost invariably are. Case in point: the Red Eye (1/2 tomato juice, ½ beer) and the Ditka Burger (peanut butter on a hamburger). I tend to assume, over and over, that these concoctions are only being sold because a gauntlet of testers have engineered the flavors to magically fuse into a symphony of taste. I have come to appreciate that this assumption may be a bit naïve, and the real source of these products are just bored gluttons and drunks. Hope springs eternal however, and the very few big wins (Salt and Vinegar?!? On a chip?!!) continue to spurn me on to self-abuse.
So, flowers in pepper – what’s up with that? I gave my flower pepper a try in two big ways – ala garden salad and ala some chicken breast I had lying around. Both delighted me. I don’t want to get onto a whole digression on pepper here, so let’s suffice to say that a little pepper brings out flavor and a lot of pepper chokes you with it’s fire. We know these things – we are not fools. What flower pepper brings to the table is a moderation of both ends of the equation – for the better. The hints of flower petals are far less subtle than I would have guessed – even in a small quantity over a large salad they lent a distinguishable, pervasive flavor that never got to heavy or clashed with my veggies and dressing. It enhanced goddammit, it went in there and did what it was supposed to do, then it went and brought a whole new herbal flavor to the mix. (Loving my italics right now, by the way. Lovin’ them.)
The chicken went down plain, save for a dusting of the titular spice, and I’m happy to say the flowers seemed to dial back the more peppery part of the pepper – retaining the bite while losing the fangs, if that makes any sense.
While I’m sure flower pepper can’t substitute for ordinary blackcorn pepper in every instance, there’s no real need for it to. I can easily imagine keeping a happy larder with both peppers side by side, taking on all comers. The only criticism I have is a weak one, that due to the pervasive use of floral scents in household cleaners it could be said that the pepper tastes how soap smells. There’s nothing unpleasant about it, tastewise, but the conditioning against eating cleaning products is so strong you might find you have to mentally push past it.
Would I recommend it: To try, at the very least.
Would I buy it again: I think I will, when I eventually run out.
Final Synopsis: A rare win for Team Strange Food Mash-ups!