Growing flowers you can eat adds an extra element of surprise in your garden, and an opportunity to harvest more food. Not only do they beautify your garden, flowers can also add aesthetics and exotic flavors to your meals.
There are a surprising number of flowers you can eat, and many are probably recognizable to you. The flowers that you tuck into planters to beautify your patio, or pluck to arrange in fresh bouquets may also be a delicious addition to your next dinner salad.
The best way to decide which flowers to grow or harvest for food and drink is to take some time to taste a few and decide which ones you really like. Some flowers will taste sweet, others spicy and pungent. Think about colors as well. The flowers can be used for contrasting color in salads, for example, or elegant garnishes for a range of dishes, drinks and desserts. They can be frozen in water to make ice cubes to add to clear drinks. Certain varieties can be candied and eaten as is, or added to desserts for decoration.
Although there are many garden and wild flowers that are edible and delectable, following are my favorite Top 10 Edible Flowers You Can Grow In Your Garden.
You are most likely familiar with lavender as an aromatic herb, but did you know bakers often use lavender flowers or lavender water in cakes and pasties? Flowers also be used in sauces and dressings for a light citrus taste with an underlying tang of rosemary and sage. English lavender varieties (Lavender angustifolia) have the best flavor for recipes, which range from sweet to savory. Remove all the flowers from the stalk when cooking. Use sparingly in sweet dishes; a little goes a long way.
Pansy, Viola, & Violets
These cool-weather favorites add brightness to planters, as well as salads, ice cubes, and cupcakes! Violas come in a plethora of color ranges, which makes them a fun flower to use to decorate cakes and as garnishes in punch bowls or cocktail drinks.
Roses The quintessential flower of love, roses offer a sweet flavor with a slight spice. The intensity of flavor will depend on type, color, and soil conditions. The darker the petals, the more pronounced the flavor. All roses are edible, but before consuming, remove the bitter white portion of the petals and make sure they are free from dyes and pesticides.
Calendula Calendula flavor ranges from spicy to bitter and tangy to peppery. The flower colors can vary greatly in a diverse range of yellows and oranges and the petals add a saffron-like flavor, hence its nickname “poor man’s saffron”.
Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Mums have a slightly spicy and pungent taste. Use sparingly in salads, stir fries and rice dishes; a little usually goes a long way.
Chive Flowers Chive blooms have a delicious onion essence and pretty little purple petals. Harvest the blooms along with the foliage and add to salads and vinaigrettes.
Squash Blossoms The blooms of all types of squash are edible, but the most popular ones come from the male flower of the zucchini and crookneck squash. The blooms have a mild squash taste and can be eaten raw in a salad or stuffed with ricotta and batter fried.
Dandelion Dandelions, despite their reputation are a wonderfully edible plant. Every part of this plant from the roots to leaves to stems and flowers is edible AND incredibly healthy. Yellow blooms taste sweetest when picked young offering a honey-like flavor. Add to salads (dandelion leaves can be mixed in too!). Or try dandelion cookies, fried dandelion blooms, or dandelion wine.
Nasturtiums are a popular edible flower that takes well to containers. These flowers come in a range of vivid colors and are quite tasty. All parts of a nasturtium are edible: petals, leaves, and seeds. They have a peppery, spicy flavor. Use in sandwiches, salads or as a garnish.
Daylily A favorite in landscapes, daylilies come in numerous shades of yellow, red, orange, purple and white. Be sure that you are tasting a daylily (hemerocallis), as other lilies can be toxic and can make you quite sick.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg of edible flowers. Remember to do your research before you eat any flower. Also, just because you can eat them does not always mean you should. Sometimes consuming vast amounts of blooms will not sit too kindly in your digestive tract.
EATING FLOWERS SAFELY
While a great many flowers are edible, not all are, so make a positive identification before you bite — be sure you know which flowers you can eat!
Grow your own edible flowers or be sure they come from a source where they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, and where they are sheltered from vehicle exhaust.
Many flowers have a bitter calyx. Separate the petals and pinch off the bitter white base of each one, using only the fragrant petals for food.
Avoid using the pistil and stamen, the sexual parts of the flower. In many flowers, the pollen can cause allergies. Some exceptions are pansies, clover, and chive blossoms.
HARVESTING EDIBLE FLOWERS
Pick flowers in the morning while the moisture content is highest.
Wash flowers by dipping in cold water before use. This will dislodge any insects and dust.
To store edible flowers, put them between layers of damp paper towel inside a sealed container. They will keep several days, up to a week this way.
WAYS TO USE EDIBLE FLOWERS
Edible flowers with their vivid colors and pretty appearance, can help you create more exotic-looking dishes, adding flavor and pizzazz to your cooking. Or, use the flowers as vibrant garnishes. Following are a few ideas on how to use your freshly harvested flowers and leaves.
Eating flowers in your salads
Create beautiful and tasty salads by sprinkling edible flowers on top just before serving. Use floral petals sparingly for color and just a hint of flavor, in your preferred lettuce mix. A light sprinkle of flowers has a more dramatic effect than an invasion of color and spice.
Garnish for Serving Platters
Garnish can really make your platters stand out, such as cheese and fruit, meat or dessert platters. You can also use as a garnish on dinner plates to add some interest and fun – you can’t help but smile when you take a moment to stop and eat the flowers!
Place a flower or two in each compartment of an ice cube tray. Add water and freeze. Add to clear drinks. You can also use fresh flowers as garnish instead of the typical orange or cherry on a sword!
Better yet, add some flower petals to your cocktails or bowl of punch. You can enhance some liquors, such as vodka, by adding a few flowers to the bottle to add color and flavor. Mocktails can be made by using seltzer instead of alcohol in many cases or add to punch or water.
Some edible flowers and botanicals like hibiscus and rose hip are actually the basis for most commercial herbal teas on the market, so you can have fun experimenting with different blends. The most basic herbal tea can be made with fresh or dried chamomile flowers. It is pretty, and good for the digestion.
Add flowers to your popsicle containers, fill with liquid, add the stick and freeze. You can have a colorful array of sunny-looking popsicles laden with flowers and interesting tastes, such as lemon mint or lavender.
Candied violets have been used for centuries, both as a sweet treat and as an elegant way to decorate cakes. Create a box of your own to pass around when guests come or give as gifts.
Make your usual sugar cookie dough. Roll it out, cut into cookies, and roll a fresh flower into the top of each cookie. Use a variety of blossoms and you will be able to create a stunning-looking cookie platter.
Clear gelatin and some sugar can be the foundation of vividly-colored jellied candies. You can also add rosewater and rose petals if you like, to make your own Turkish delight. Make a tray of it, chill well, and cut into small squares. Toss the squares in some powdered sugar to stop them sticking together.
Layer the flowers with layers of yogurt, and perhaps some granola or nuts, for a light, refreshing dessert or breakfast.
DRYING FLOWERS AND HERBS
Not all edible flowers and herbs dry well, so choose ones you know will be hardy enough to survive the process, and ones you use regularly.
Hanging the flowers and herbs upside down in a cool, dry place will help preserve them. They should be completely dry when you start; that is, with no dew on them. Tie them into loose bunches with some cotton thread and hang them by the thread from hooks.
Once they are dried, you can remove flowers, leaves and so on from the stems and harvest the edible parts of the plant. For flowers, cut them in half and clean out any pollen or other inedible parts. Store your harvest in cool, dry containers. Be sure to label each one so you don’t get any surprises when you use them in cooking.
Working on planning your next garden? Make sure you include some delicious edible flowers!
Take Time to Stop and Eat the Flowers!