George M. Groutas/CC BY 1.0
The culinary use of flowers dates back thousands of years to the Chinese, Greek and Romans. Many cultures use flowers in their traditional cooking — think of squash blossoms in Italian food and rose petals in Indian food. Adding flowers to your food can be a nice way to add color, flavor and a little whimsy. Some are spicy, and some herbacious, while others are floral and fragrant. The range is surprising.
It’s not uncommon to see flower petals used in salads, teas, and as garnish for desserts, but they inspire creative uses as well — roll spicy ones (like chive blossoms) into handmade pasta dough, incorporate floral ones into homemade ice cream, pickle flower buds (like nasturtium) to make ersatz capers, use them to make a floral simple syrup for use in lemonade or cocktails. I once stuffed gladiolus following a recipe for stuffed squash blossoms — they were great. So many possibilities…
Eating Flowers SafelySo. As lovely as eating flowers can be, it can also be a little … deadly! Not to scare you off or anything. Follow these tips for eating flowers safely:
- Eat flowers you know to be consumable — if you are uncertain, consult a reference book on edible flowers and plants.
- Eat flowers you have grown yourself, or know to be safe for consumption. Flowers from the florist or nursery have probably been treated with pesticides or other chemicals.
- Do not eat roadside flowers or those picked in public parks. Both may have been treated with pesticide or herbicide, and roadside flowers may be polluted by car exhaust.
- Eat only the petals, and remove pistils and stamens before eating.
- If you suffer from allergies, introduce edible flowers gradually, as they may exacerbate allergies.
- To keep flowers fresh, place them on moist paper towels and refrigerate in an airtight container. Some will last up to 10 days this way. Ice water can revitalize limp flowers.
Allium to Carnations1. Allium
All blossoms from the allium family (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives) are edible and flavorful! Flavors run the gamut from delicate leek to robust garlic. Every part of these plants is edible.
Depending on the variety, flowers range from pale lavender-blue to deep rose and have a licorice-like flavor.
3. Anise hyssop
Both flowers and leaves have a subtle anise or licorice flavor.
Blossoms are small with dark centers and with a peppery flavor much like the leaves. They range in color from white to yellow with dark purple streaks.
5. Bachelor’s button
Grassy in flavor, the petals are edible. Avoid the bitter calyx.
Blossoms come in a variety of colors, from white to pink to lavender; flavor is similar to the leaves, but milder.
7. Bee balm
The red flowers have a minty flavor.
Blossoms are a lovely blue hue and taste like cucumber!
9. Calendula / marigold
A great flower for eating, calendula blossoms are peppery, tangy, and spicy — and their vibrant golden color adds dash to any dish.
10. Carnations / dianthus
Petals are sweet, once trimmed away from the base. The blossoms taste like their sweet, perfumed aroma.