Flowers are lovely to admire in the garden and delightful in vases in the home, but what about bringing them into the kitchen and incorporating them into your salad, dessert or main course? Cooking and garnishing with edible flowers is an age-old practice that is gaining renewed popularity with today’s creative, health conscious chefs. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, and it’s healthy!
When collecting edible flowers follow these simple rules:
- Collect only on your own property or in areas where you are absolutely certain that herbicides/pesticides have not been applied
- Only consume flowers whose identity you are certain of. If in doubt as to what type of flower it is, do not eat it
- If you are prone to allergies introduce flowers slowly and in small amounts to your dishes
- On most flowers only the petals themselves should be used (there are a few exceptions, noted below). In other words, separate the petals from the hard base of the flower and remove the stamens & pistils (the elongated central reproductive elements of the flower).
The list of edible flowers is far too extensive to include here, but here’s a sampling of some of the most popular:
All parts of the daylily are edible and, in fact, it was historically a food staple in its native Asia. New shoots are edible, as are the tuberous roots. Most delectable, though, are the flower buds (which can be steamed, stir fried, or pickled) and the flowers themselves.
*While Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are edible, true Lilies (Lilium) should not be consumed.
Candied pansies were very popular in Victorian times and make an elegant finishing touch to cakes, cupcakes, cookies or ice cream. (Learn recipes for candied flowers and herbs in our herb recipes article.) Fresh Pansy/Violet flowers can also be added to salads, used as a decorative garnish on cheese trays or floated in punch bowl beverages.
Yes – you read that right. Dandelions were brought over to this country by early European settlers because they were an important part of their green nutrition as well as a valuable part of their herbal medicine cabinet. Dandelion foliage greens up earlier in the season that most traditional salad greens and is loaded with vitamins, minerals & antioxidants. In fact it has among the highest protein content (14%) of any green vegetable. The root, also, is edible and can be roasted and served as a healthful, detoxifying tea. And – of course – those lovely yellow flowers are a favorite for making Dandelion Wine.