We introduced all the main rules and principles of using edible flowers in your bar and kitchen before. Now we will share details on some flowers that you can try right now.
Sage Flowers (Salvia Officinalis)
Many consider sage flowers a discardable part and even doubt whether the sage leaves are still good to use after the plant flowers (the answer is yes). If you never used sage flowers in cooking, you want to try! They have a gentle, sweet-savory flavor, less sharp and spicy than the leaves. The blooms also have a beautiful amethyst color. In summer months, they go exceptionally well in home-made lemonades or refreshing citrus-and-flower popsicles.
Sweet Osmanthus (Osmanthus Fragrans)
Although rare and relatively unknown at the West, Osmanthus is a valuable and loved flower in the East. The flowers are exceptionally fragrant and produce a buttery-sweet apricot scent when used in cooking. Osmanthus wine was considered a delicacy in China. In modern days, the flowers are used in the mix with green tea to create a scented tea - guìhuāchá. The flowers or Osmanthus-infused syrups are also used to produce osmanthus-scented jam (guìhuājiàng), sweet cakes (guìhuāgāo), soups, salads, desserts, and even liquor, ice-cream, and cocktails.
Calendula (Calendula Officinalis, The Pot Marigold)
This golden and sunset-colored common flower got the name of “poor man’s saffron.” When infused in oil, it does taste like saffron and has valuable nutritional properties. Uncooked calendula petals have a subtle, spicy taste: add them for a splash of color into the salad or over your breakfast eggs.
Violet (Viola Species)
Can you imagine anything more French than using violets to adorn your desserts and drinks? Violets are delicate, bright, pretty flowers of just the right size, have a sweet and floral (almost perfumed) taste, making them a perfect ingredient for desserts, drinks, and salads alike.
Candied violets or crystallized violets are easy to make at home. And of course, these flowers go great with most exquisite cake and desserts, sorbets, syrups, ice-creams, frozen cocktails, and sweets. Heart-shaped leaves are edible, too, and can be used and cooked the same way as spinach. Both tender leaves and flowers can be added to salads raw.
Pansy (Viola Tricolor)
Pansies are a larger and brighter relative of Violets, and the uses are quite similar, although Pansy has a different taste: less refined and aromatic, a bit grassy, almost minty at times. They go well in savory cocktails and fruit and leaf salads. Nothing says “french summer” like a fresh cream cheese topped with a violet or pansy flower. Same as violets, petals can be candied, but they can also be simply thrown into a salad for a pop of color.
Hibiscus (Malvaceae Family)
Hibiscus genus includes hundreds of species, but the most popular edible one is Hibiscus sabdariffa. You can pick and eat flowers and buds straight from the plant. Flowers have an intense tart and sweet flavor that would be more expected from fruit or berry than a flower. Some compare it to cranberries and use for “fruit” teas, salads, relishes, and jams. Hibiscus flowers are stunning and can grow to enormous sizes, up to 6 inches in diameter.
The best known edible variety is bright red and pink, which gained hibiscus a slightly misleading name of china rose or tea rose. Herbal tea, especially as an alternative when zero caffeine, is probably the most important application Hibiscus. There is also a nice little trick you can use to impress your guests: drop freshly picked Hibiscus buds into a glass of champaign and watch the petals “bloom” before your eyes.
Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale)
If you only thought of this sunny yellow flower as a weed, you missed out a lot: every part of Dandelion is edible (except, maybe, fluffy seed “parachutes”). Old leaves might be too rough to enjoy, but everything else can be used both raw and cooked - in salads, soups, stir fry, and stews, same as any hearty greens.
Flowers can be breaded and deep-fried. The roots are steeped to make tea and morning tonic for skin that is said to help with acne (no scientific proof, but this plant does contain many essential nutrients). Dandelions are considered weeds but double as a highly nutritious edible flower. Dandelion wine used to be produced in the UK using a recipe passed down by generations.
Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Some places grow lavender for the use in the perfume industry of purely as a potted or garden plant: those plants may not be suitable for consumption! Please do not consume any plants or flowers unless you know how they were grown and what chemicals were applied to them. When you cook with Lavender, it is better to start with tiny amounts and add little by little. The aroma is so strong that it easily overpowers the taste and scent of the main ingredient. Lavender, when used in food, leaves no one indifferent: people either adore it for its refined fragrance or detest it due to its strong associations with soap and perfumes.
Lavender is a violet flower admired for its distinct aroma. The flavor is floral, slightly sweet, with lemony and zesty notes. You can eat the flowers fresh or dried, and use it in combination with many various ingredients, such as citrus fruits, herbs (especially rosemary, sage, and thyme), and berries. In teas, Lavender often comes in mixes with Passiflora and Chamomile in calming evening mixes. With savory herbs, Lavender flowers add unique notes to stews and wine-based sauces, and you can always find it as an ingredient to dry spice rubs. A tiny amount adds an unusual fragrance to custards or flans. It pairs well with chocolate, baked goods, liqueurs, and can be purchased in the form of infused syrups that have a longer shelf life. If you wish to offer your guests a refined and unusual take on familiar treats, add a few fresh flowers to a glass of champagne, chocolate cake, or sprinkle on top of citrus sorbet.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera - Some Varieties!)
The honeysuckle family is large (several dozens species) and is quite tricky for foragers, so we advise to exercise caution. There are edible varieties and toxic varieties, consumable parts, and poisonous parts, and they often look similar! Please remember that even in varieties where flowers are edible, berries from the same species of honeysuckle can be toxic. Please remember not to eat any berries, flowers, roots, or leaves you are not familiar with.
Kids who grew up around honeysuckle flowers know them for their yellow or white “curly” petals and the nectar that can be eaten straight from the blossom. The flowers have a strong and pleasant scent. In cooking, honeysuckle is used in teas or flavorful syrups to add to cremes, cakes, bread tor sorbet. The nectar can be used as a sugar replacement.
Among all edible flowers, Nasturtium is the best known and most used, especially in salads. It is a versatile, beautiful, easy to grow, a long-blooming flower with unique, savory flavor. It is a distant cousin of mustard and can be used the same way in sauces, salad, and even pesto. These flowers have a spicy, mildly peppery taste reminiscent of watercress. It goes great with vegetables, meat, grains, and other leafy greens.
Both leaves and flowers are edible, and you can eat them both raw and processed. Younger leaves and flowers are preferable, but even larger leaves are tender enough. In the garden, they are an uncapricious, self-sustaining plant, one of those recommended for kids. We tried hard to find at least something negative about these edible flowers: the only thing we could find is a few anecdotes claiming that consuming nasturtiums with pregnancy complications in rats.
Borage (Borago Officinalis)
Borage, or star-flower, are blue, pink cor white delicate flowers recognizable for their star shape. In cooking, borage flowers have mainly decorative applications in salads and savory dishes, although both flowers and leaves are edible. The flavor is described as “cucumber with a honey aftertaste.” Cooked flowers can be added as a filling to soups, stews, pasta sauces, same as other neutral leafy greens. Some studies showed that these flowers are prone to carrying contaminants from the soil, so it is better not to overdo eating them.
Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)
Purslane is a succulent plant with fleshy leaves and small, humble yellow flowers. In the past, this flower was considered not much more significant than any common weed, but more recent studies discovered its rich nutritional value. Both flower buds, tender stems, and leaves can be eaten both cooked and raw, in salads, sandwiches, wraps, soups, stir-fried, and even battered and fried similar to kale. The taste is slightly sour and salty (piquant).
Do not eat roses from florists and public flower gardens! The white parts of petals are bitter, so use only the top colored parts. All roses are edible, but not all taste the same. Cut off the bitter white portion of the petals. Roses have floral and slightly sweet flavor; some compare the taste of colored petals to strawberries and green apples. Subtler undertones depend on the species and range from fruity to mint to spicy. Darker varieties seem to produce stronger tastes.
Some chefs suggest that flowers that smell good are more likely to taste good, too. Petals can adorn cakes and deserts, frozen in ice cubes, and allowed to float in drinks. Petals can be used to add aroma to syrups, jellies, jams, and sweets. Petals mixed with sugar can add a unique note to a common and ordinary product.
Squash And Zucchini Blossoms
Bright yellow and orange flowers of squash or zucchini are commonly used in Italian cuisine. They taste slightly sweet and tangy, similar to very young zucchinis. They go great with goat cheese, pizzas, pasta, summer salads, and pretty much any dish you can imagine. You can crunch on them raw, or chop into salads, adding the bright yellow of the petals to the mix. You can also fry them until the petals become crispy.
You probably do not want to sacrifice your entire harvest of zucchinis to enjoy the flowers, so it is essential to learn to distinguish male and female flowers. Only female flowers produce squash, so if you preserve them and pick only the male ones, you will get to enjoy both products! Male blossoms usually have a thin and long stem and grow mainly around the outer edges of the plant. Female flowers tend to stick closer to the base of the plant and often have a tiny bulb at the base of the blossom (which will eventually become your zucchini or squash).
Carnations (Dianthus Caryophyllus)
Carnations have unexpectedly sweet petals that can be used in desserts, wines, cocktails, and decorations. Chartreuse, a French liqueur, has carnation petals as its “secret” ingredient. Same as with roses, you need to cut off the bitter white base of the petal, and never use flowers from florists or nurseries. You would prefer fresh, raw petals.
Common Chickweed (Stellaria Media)
This small and humble plant most of us consider a weed and do not look twice at is a valuable source of nutrients. Both leaves, tender stems and tiny white flowers are edible. Because the leaves and stems are so small and delicate, they are better eaten raw in salads or sprinkled raw over cold summer soups. This plant is one of the ingredients used in a traditional dish sold during the Nanakusa-no-sekku, Japanese spring festival.
Chrysanthemum (Various Species)
Dried flowers of Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium and coccineum are used in the production of Pyrethrum, a plant-based insecticide. It takes a high concentration to become toxic, but you still want to keep them away from your edible garden. The majority of other chrysanthemum flowers are edible, with a vast diversity of scents and flavors, from sweet to peppery or bitter. Chinese value chrysanthemum tea very highly, assigning it multiple health-improving properties. Yellow or white flowers of cChrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum Indicum are two main species used for making traditional Asian chrysanthemum tea.
Clover tastes a little similar to licorice. The red variety, especially with brighter colors, is generally sweeter and tastier and can be used in salads. Kids might enjoy picking each tiny flower from the clove and sucking out the nectar.
Sunflower (Helianthus Annus)
Although we all know and enjoy sunflowers for the seeds and cooking oil, the flowers can also be eaten. The unopened buds can be sauteed and used similarly to artichokes. Although this is not a common way to use this flower to preserve the production of seeds that come from the flower. Petals can be used similarly to Chrysanthemum for decorative purposes, although they can be slightly bitter.
About the Author
Antonia is a sociologist and an anglicist by education, but a writer and a behavior enthusiast by inclination. If she's not writing, editing or reading, you can usually find her snuggling with her huge dog or being obsessed with a new true-crime podcast. She also has a (questionably) healthy appreciation for avocados and Seinfeld.
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