An edible flower can be that hint of uniqueness and spark of individuality that transforms any familiar dish and wows guests. However, we are way less familiar with flowers in our food than with flowers in our pots. Which flowers are safe to use? What do they taste like? How will they change the aroma? And where to get edible flowers?
These and more questions answered right here.
So, What Do Flowers Taste Like?
Flowers come in a wide variety of scents and flavors, which we will describe separately. You can expect them to taste like a less intense version of the plant they come from (if the plant is edible). Many petals produce pleasant fragrance, but are almost tasteless or just “grassy” themselves.
Why Use Edible Flowers?
You do not have to, but you might want to - it is an easy way to enhance the scent, taste, and look of your dishes, cakes, ice cream, desserts, and drinks. As long as you know your plants, it can be an easy way to stand out. Vanilla ice-cream? Life-long familiarity, try harder. How about Vanilla ice-cream with violet petals? Sounds French - never tried it!
Many cultures that have an appreciation for exquisite cuisines use flowers in their beverages and meals. “Turkish delight” is a typical example of using roses that endured ages. Many Israel and Morokko deserts use Rose and Orange Flower water. Romans, and then French loved cooking with violet flowers, primroses, and rose petals.
Is It Safe To Eat Flowers?
Not all of them! Same as you would not eat just any plant or mushroom. You have to know what you are adding to your salad. The rule of thumb is - if you are not 100% sure, do not add that plant.
In many cases, only the petals are suitable for consumption. If you know that petals are safe to eat, do not assume that everything else is! This is the case with such well-known plants as elderberry (do not eat leaves and stems) and honeysuckle (berries are poisonous!). Check if any of your guests have hay fever, pollen allergy, or are allergic to some plant: in that case, it is better to leave them out of your plate. Please mind that many plants that are safe for humans can be toxic for pets, so check before sharing the ice-cream leftovers.
If you are not growing your own flowers, make sure you do not pick them at the roadside or the park flower beds and fields: most likely, they have been treated with chemicals and pesticides you do not want to consume. If you picked your flowers in an area you feel confident in, like a forest park, make sure you clean them. Do not eat flowers from florists. In many cases, those were treated with pesticides and various chemicals to enhance their looks.
At times, some restaurants and cafes add flowers that are not supposed to be eaten on the plates for the aesthetics. If you are not sure if this plant is edible, leave it or ask the waiter. Not every chef is familiar with edible flowers, and they might not even be aware that some people would consider a flower as more than decor!
How Do I Choose Flowers To Eat?
We want to repeat it just in case, please never eat any plant that you are not absolutely sure is safe. Many plants look very similar, yet they can be poisonous. Do not forage outside of your garden if you do not have an experience or have a guide.
Pick young flowers in the morning after the first sunshine dried the dew. These petals will maintain their fresh appearance longer. Use flowers on the day you picked them. Make sure you wiped the soil or insects.
Frozen or heated flowers can be used for taste and scent, but they will not keep their appearance. So if you are using flowers for the esthetics (for example, on your wedding cakes), fresh is the way to go!
Remove the stamens and leaves from all flowers before use. Use only petals from every flower but violas and pansies (in their case, you can eat them whole). For a rose, calendula, tulip, chrysanthemum, yucca, and lavender - only their petals are edible! The white part at the base of each petal is bitter in roses, marigolds, and chrysanthemums.