Edible flowers are the epitome of dazzling cuisine… And extremely nutritious.
Fresh from your garden in July (lavender, thyme, dill, cilantro, day lily, squash blossom, Nasturtiums, chives, and basil).
After being forgotten for many years, cooking and garnishing with flowers is back in vogue and on gourmet menus once again. Cooking with Flowers has been traced back to Roman times, and to the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures. Edible flowers were especially popularin the Victorian era during Queen Victoria’s reign.
Today, many restaurant chefs and innovative home cooks garnish their entrees with flower blossoms for a touch of elegance not to mention the health benefits. The secret to success when using edible flowers is to keep the dish simple, do not add to many other flavors that will over power the delicate taste of the dish. Today this nearly lost art is enjoying a revival.
The most important thing that you need to remember is that not every flower is edible!!!
In fact, sampling some flowers can make you very, very sick!!!
You also should NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat. An edible can become toxic when treated with pesticides….
Never harvest flowers growing by the roadside ( you have no idea what they have been exposed too ).
Identify the flower exactly and eat only edible flowers and edible parts of those flowers. Remember not all parts of an edible flower is safe to eat. Just like anything else. EDUCATE YOURSELF.
Always remember to use flowers sparingly in your recipes due to the digestive complications that can occur with a large consumption rate. Most herb flowers have a taste that’s similar to the leaf, but spicier. The concept of using fresh edible flowers in cooking is not new.
How To Choose Edible Flowers –
Edible Flower Chart:
Begonia – Tuberous begonias and Waxed begonias –
Tuberous Begonias (Begonia X tuberosa) – The leaves, flowers, and stems are edible. Begonia blossoms have a citrus-sour taste. The petals are used in salads and as a garnish. Stems, also, can be used in place of rhubarb. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism.
Wax Begonias (Begonia cucullata) – The fleshy leaves and flowers are edible raw or cooked. They can have a slight bitter after taste and if in water most of the time, a hint of swamp in their flavor.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – Also called Marigolds. A wonderful edible flower. Flavors range from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Their sharp taste resembles saffron (also known as Poor Man’s Saffron). Has pretty petals in golden-orange hues. Sprinkle them on soups, pasta or rice dishes, herb butters, and salads. Petals add a yellow tint to soups, spreads, and scrambled eggs. Only the pedals are edible.
Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus – aka Dianthus) – Carnations can be steeped in wine, candy, or use as cake decoration. To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Dianthus are the miniature member of the carnation family with light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Petals add color to salads or aspics. Carnation petals are one of secret ingredients that has been used to make Chartreuse, a French liqueur, since the 17th century.
Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange. They range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. They sould be blanched first and then scatter the petals on a salad. The leaves can also be used to flavor vinegar. Always remove the bitter flower base and use petals only. Young leaves and stems of the Crown Daisy, also known as Chop Suey Greens or Shingiku in Japan, are widely used in oriental stir-fries and as salad seasoning.
Clover (Trifolium species) – Sweet, anise-like, licorice. White and red clover blossoms were used in folk medicine against gout, rheumatism, and leucorrhea. It was also believed that the texture of fingernails and toenails would improve after drinking clover blossom tea. Native Americans used whole clover plants in salads, and made a white clover leaf tea for coughs and colds. Avoid bitter flowers that are turning brown, and choose those with the brightest color, which are tastiest. Raw flower heads can be difficult to digest.
Cornflower (Centaurea cynaus) – Also called Bachelor’s button. They have a slightly sweet to spicy, clove-like flavor. Bloom is a natural food dye. More commonly used as garnish.
Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) – Also called Sweet Rocket or Dame’s Violet. This plant is often mistaken for Phlox. Phlox has five petals, Dame’s Rocket has just four. The flowers, which resemble phlox, are deep lavender, and sometimes pink to white. The plant is part of the mustard family, which also includes radishes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and, mustard. The plant and flowers are edible, but fairly bitter. The flowers are attractive added to green salads. The young leaves can also be added to your salad greens (for culinary purposes, the leaves should be picked before the plant flowers). The seed can also be sprouted and added to salads. NOTE: It is not the same variety as the herb commonly called Rocket, which is used as a green in salads.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) – Member of the Daisy family. Flowers are sweetest when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. Dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers: best to pick these when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball. Good raw or steamed. Also made into wine. Young leaves taste good steamed, or tossed in salads. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.
Day Lilies (Hemerocallis species) – Slightly sweet with a mild vegetable flavor, like sweet lettuce or melon. Their flavor is a combination of asparagus and zucchini. Chewable consistency. Some people think that different colored blossoms have different flavors. To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Also great to stuff like squash blossoms. Flowers look beautiful on composed salad platters or crowning a frosted cake. Sprinkle the large petals in a spring salad. In the spring, gather shoots two or three inches tall and use as a substitute for asparagus. NOTE:Many Lilies contain alkaloids and are NOT edible. Day Lilies may act as a diuretic or laxative; eat in moderation.
English Daisy (Bellis perennis) – The flowers have a mildly bitter taste and are most commonly used for their looks than their flavor. The petals are used as a garnish and in salads.
Some dos and don’ts!
Following are some simple guidelines to keep in mind before you eat any type of flower:
Life. Wellness. Health. DO’S:
Eat flowers only when you are positive they are edible. If uncertain, consult a good reference book on edible flowers prior to consumption.
If pesticides are necessary, use only those products labeled for use on edible crops. No flowers is safe to eat unless it was grown organically.
Wash all flowers thoroughly before you eat them.
Introduce flowers into your diet in small quantities one species at a time. Too much of a good thing may cause problems for your digestive system.
Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating. Separate the flower petals from the rest of the flower just prior to use to keep wilting to a minimum. Eat only the flower petals for most flowers except pansies violas, and Johnny-jump-ups (in which they add flavor).
If you have allergies, introduce edible flowers gradually, as they may aggravate some allergies.
Life. Wellness. Health. DON’TS:
Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.
Do not eat flowers picked from the side of the road. Once again, possible herbicide use eliminates these flowers as a possibility for use.
Just because flowers are served with food served at a restaurant does not mean they are edible.
*Know your edible flowers – as some chefs do not.
It’s easy and very attractive to use flowers for garnish on plates or for decoration, but avoid using non-edible flowers this way. Many people believe that anything on the plate can be eaten. They may not know if the flower is edible or not and may be afraid to ask.
Picking Edible Flowers:
Pick your flowers in the morning when their water content is at its highest.
Following information from the book, Edible Flowers – From Garden To Palate, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash:
Remove the stamens and styles from the flowers before eating. The pollen can detract from the flavor of the flower. In addition, the pollen may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals. Remove the sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies.
Only the petals of some flowers such as rose, calendula, tulip, chrysanthemum, yucca, and lavender are edible. When using just the petals, separate them from the rest of the flower just prior to use to keep wilting to a minimum. Others, including Johnny-jump-up, violet, runner bean, honeysuckle, and clover can be eaten in their entirety.
Roses, dianthus, English daisies, marigolds and chrysanthemums have a bitter white portion at the base of the petal where it was attached to the flower. Bread or cut off the bitter part off the petal before using.
The mentioned edible flowers are general knowledge. However, individuals consuming the flowers, plants, or derivatives listed on this web page, do so entirely at their own risk. Life. Wellness. Health. can not be held responsible for any adverse reaction to the flowers.
Happy Cooking … Joyful Serving and Healthy Beautiful food all around!