Before we talk about where to use edible flowers, let’s take a moment to discuss some of the most popular ones and give you a primer on what can and can’t be used at the table. Some flowers are truly dangerous and should never come in contact with your food, so it’s important to cover our bases.
Make sure any flowers you use have been grown without the help of pesticides or chemical sprays. Flowers from most florists are treated, so choose those grown specifically to be eaten or from an untreated home garden. Any flower that comes into contact with food (such as for a garnish) should be suitable for human consumptions. For best quality, flowers should be picked early in the day and in dry weather. Rinse them quickly under gently running, cool water. Blossoms wilt quickly, so only pick what you will use in one day. Before using them, remove the pistils, stamens (the middle parts) and the white part at the base of the petal. This white part is called the "heel" and will usually impart a bitter taste.
There are a large number of edible flowers, but I will only cover a few of the most popular ones here. For a more extensive list with descriptions and illustrations, check out the What’s Cooking America website. Now, let’s look at some culinary favorites and what flavors they can add to the party:
- Arugula Blossoms: Imparts a nutty, spicy, peppery flavor to dishes.
- Borage Blossoms: Imparts a light cucumber flavor to dishes.
- Chamomile Blossoms: Imparts a faint apple flavor to dishes; makes an excellent tea.
- Day Lily Blossoms: Tastes like a crunchy lettuce leaf with a slight chestnut flavor.
- English Daisy Blossoms: Imparts a tangy flavor to dishes.
- Fennel Blossoms: Has a sweet licorice flavor not unlike its bulb.
- Jasmine Blossoms: Popular as a tea; has a delicate sweet flavor.
- Lilac Blossoms: Has a pungent lemony floral flavor; lovely for decorating cakes.
- Nasturium Blossoms: Imparts a sweet, peppery flavor to dishes.
- Pansy Blossoms: Very mild, sweet flavor that’s great for salads and desserts.
- Rose Blossoms: Sweet flavor; choose strongly scented petals for the best flavor.
- Rosemary Blossoms: Imparts a pine-like, sweet, savory flavor to dishes.
- Squash Blossoms: A sweet flavor that’s lovely stuffed.
- Violet Blossoms: Sweet, nectar flavor that’s great in salads and desserts.
Remember that it’s wise to stick to the petals only of the edible flowers you use unless you are certain of what you are using and its effects on people. Sprinkle brightly colored petals into a fresh salad – avoid drenching it in dressing since the acid in most salad dressings will wilt the flowers and drain their color. Many of these flowers also make lovely natural cake decorations as well. Choose carefully and start small and you’ll amass a good deal of knowledge about how to best choose and use edible flowers. And imagine how impressed your friends and family will be when you present them with brightly colored creations that are from nature. Enjoy!If there's a topic that you'd like to see covered in this column, let me know. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at .