EDIBLE FLOWER GUIDE
Using edible flowers in your culinary creations all year round, and especially during these Summer months, is a beautiful and vibrant way to elevate your dishes, introduce yourself to new flavors, awaken your taste buds, and reconnect with your inner artist. The use of edible flowers in cooking actually dates back thousands of years. Rose petals are the perfect example of this having been used in Indian cuisine for centuries.
There are however, a few things to consider first before venturing down the edible flower road. Many edible flowers are best eaten raw, freshly picked from your own garden if possible. While all flowers are stunning in their own way, not all flowers are edible and in fact, some can be poisonous. So it is best to stick to a comprehensive list and do your research to ensure your safety. Also, please, please avoid flowers that have been sprayed with any insecticide, herbicide, or fungicide. Harvesting flowers growing by the roadside, while it may seem spontaneous and adventurous, is also not a great idea without knowing what kinds of treatments have been used in the area.
While books and manuals have been written about the world and wonder of edible flowers, including the myriad of herb flowers such as Basil Flowers and Chive + Garlic Blossoms, I am going to highlight some of my absolute favorites for you here along with some really lovely and magical ways to use them in your own cooking and food preparations. Much of which involves sprinkling petals like confetti over everything, which brings some whimsy and delight back into the kitchen.
**EASY + QUICK TIP: any of these flowers + petals can be sprinkled into your filled unfrozen ice tray and popped into the freezer to create beautiful ice cubes that not only add brilliant color, but subtle floral flavors to your teas or adult beverages.**
CALENDULA (MARIGOLDS) :: a really wonderful edible flower that has golden orange hued petals. The petals are the only part of this flower that is edible. Flavors can be spicy, tangy, peppery. This flower has also been referred to as The Poor Man’s Saffron and can be used in its place by sprinkling the petals on top of soups, pasta, rice dishes, or salads.
CHAMOMILE :: has small, daisy-like flowers with the flavor of apple. Makes a really wonderful tea for calming the spirit and quieting the mind.
CITRUS BLOSSOMS (Orange, Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit, + Kumquat) :: very similar in taste to their fruit, these blossoms and petals have a citrus and lemony flavor. My favorite way to use these is to make uplifting and spirit brightening Sun Teas, letting them soak in the sun in spring or distilled water for a day.
DANDELIONS :: flowers have a sweet, honey-like flavor and become even more sweet the younger they are picked while the more mature flowers have a bitter taste. And Dandelion Buds are supposedly tastier than the flowers. They are delicious raw or steamed and tossed into salads. Or sprinkle the petals over rice dishes. I love to use the Black Forbidden Rice as it creates the most beautiful contrast with the dark, purpley rice and the gold petals. Dandelions are abundant so again please be conscious about picking them from an unfertilized lawn.
LAVENDER :: this is one of my favorite flowers to garnish dishes with. I sprinkle the flowers into teas, kombuchas, add them to my coconut popsicles. It has a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. But my absolute favorite way to use lavender is to add it to vegan ice creams. Even the smallest amount can add mystery to any dish and complements vanilla beautifully.
MINT :: all flowers of the mint family are edible. They work especially well as Sun Teas, or combined in raw cacao treats like pudding, smoothies, and truffles for a cool, refreshing take on a chocolate treat.
HONEYSUCKLE :: I grew up wandering the quite back roads of Cape Code, sucking on these sweet flowers pulled from right from the bush. Just as you would think they have a sweet honey taste. Please note that only the flowers are edible, the berries are very poisonous!
JASMINE :: these flowers create the most intoxicating scent, one of my favorites. Their flavor is equally intense and makes a beautiful tea. But lately I have also been infusing them in my local honey. Please only use True Jasmine which has oval, shiny leaves and white waxy flowers as other varieties of Jasmine can be dangerous.
LILAC :: the flavor can vary from plant to plant, but is very fragrant, with a lemony taste, and can be slightly bitter. It is an ideal petal to sprinkle over salads or garnish like confetti over cakes.
NASTURTIUMS :: these colorful flowers range from pale yellow to golden, and from striped orange to neon. These are definitely among the most common of the edible flowers. The petals have a spicy flavor and are ideally used to add a peppery pop to salads, sandwiches, rice dishes, and soups. Use the entire blossom to garnish any dessert including raw cheesecakes, chocolate mousses, and chia puddings
PANSY :: the petals have a sweet grassy flavor and can range from very mild to tart. Use them sprinkled in fruit salads, green salad, desserts or soups.
ROSES :: flavors can be sweet, similar to strawberries, however greatly depend on type, color, and soil conditions. The flavor is actually stronger in the darker varieties. Can be used in Sun Teas, or sprinkle the petals over ice creams, desserts, and salads. The petals can also be infused with your favorite local honey and nut butters.
SQUASH BLOSSOMS+ PUMPKIN BLOSSOMS :: both are edible and taste mildly of raw squash. These are a decadent treat when stuffed with a creamy goat cheese and fried.
VIOLETS :: similar to the Pansy, the Violet comes in stunning colors ranging from pale and deep purple to yellows to pale orange. The petals have a sweet flavor. I use these in just about everything from sprinkling over soups, salads and open faced sandwiches to garnishing all my desserts and ice creams.