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Edible Flowers

 

Jump to:-  Harvesting, Buying, Preparing and Storing General Uses | Types of Edible Flowers | Precautions | Recipes

 

 

Flowers have been eaten for thousands of years.  They have been used for many years in Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines and are known to have been cooked by the ancient Romans. In Europe early writings have included the account of a medieval feast where venison was cooked with marigolds and salads made with  violets.

 

When used with care, they can add a new dimension to recipes both for flavour and aesthetically.  However, although many flowers are edible, as some are poisonous, it's best to stick to the one's you know are ok and to that end, we have included a chart below listing the safe ones.  In general,  the flowers of vegetables and herbs are safe to eat.

 

 

How to Buy or Harvest, Prepare and Store Flowers For Eating

 

 

Buying Flowers for cooking

 

Unfortunately it's impossible to tell whether ordinary cut flowers bought from florists (who can supply flowers by post), and other outlets have been sprayed with chemicals. Most likely they have been, so it's best not to use them for culinary purposes.  However, if you can't grow your own, help is at hand as there are companies on the internet who sell flower petals specifically for use in cooking. Just search for "buy edible flowers".

 

Harvesting, preparing and storing flowers

Only pick flowers for culinary use which you know haven't been sprayed with pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals.

 

It's best to pick flowers just before you want to use them and when they are just opened, then wash carefully in cold water.  Adding a little salt to the water will help get rid of any insects. Once well washed, carefully pat dry on kitchen paper or allow them dry naturally at room temperature. They can then be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag until ready to use but preferably not longer than 3 days.

 

In general the petals are the edible part of flowers, not the centre of the flower so you should detach the petals and cut off the  white ‘heel’ at their bases as this tends to be bitter. The pistil and stamen should also be removed, especially from larger flowers.

Do not pull the petals off until you are ready to use them.   Exceptions to this are large flowers which are going to be stuffed such as courgette flowers, and smaller flowers such as violas which can be eaten whole.

 

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Once naturally dry, edible flowers can also can be fully dried or frozen, although the texture will change, so they are best used for infusions or in cooked dishes.

 

General Uses for edible Flowers


As an edible garnish or decoration
Edible flowers can be used to garnish salads, desserts and drinks. Crystallized flowers can be used to decorate cakes and confectionary. 

Adding Colour and flavour
Marigolds (calendula) in particular can add both colour and flavour to dishes using eggs, rice and milk. Soak the petals in warm milk (twice the amount of milk to petals) which can then be used in cakes, breads and desserts to liven up the colour.  Many flowers can be used to flavour oils, dressings and marinades and in salads, adding both flavour and colour.

Stuffing and Cooking
Courgette flowers are excellent when stuffed as are gladioli and day lily (Hemerocallis) flowers, although the latter two are used more for their look rather than taste. Courgette flowers are also excellent batter and deep fried.

 

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Types of Edible Flowers

 

Alliums (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives)  All parts of these plants are edible. The flowers tend to be stronger flavoured than the leaves. Suitable for salads, in egg dishes such as omelettes and in soups.  


Chive - Mild onion flavour. Suitable for salads, in egg dishes such as omelettes and in soups.  


Garlic -  Milder flavour than garlic cloves. Suitable for salads 

Angelica - Celery/liquorice flavour. Suitable for salads and fish dishes.


Anise Hyssop - Delicate liquorice flavour.

 

Arugula - See rocket


Banana Blossoms - Also know as Banana Hearts. Banana blossoms can be cooked or eaten raw and are used in some Asian cuisines.


Basil -  A milder flavour than the leaves.   Suitable for  salads and pasta dishes.


Bergamot - Milder than the leaves - savoury/fruity flavour .   Suitable for  salads, rice, pork and pasta dishes.


Borage and Burnet - Cucumber taste. Suitable for cold soups, sorbets and drinks such as  punch, gin & tonic, iced  teas.

Calendula - Also known as Marigolds. Flavour similar to saffron but more pungent and sometimes bitter or peppery. Suitable for many dishes including  meats, poultry, eggs, pasta,  rice  and salads. Adds colour to liquids such as milk.


Carnations/Dianthus -  Sweetish spice flavour.  Suitable for desserts and salads.


Chamomile - Sweet appley Flavour. Often used to make tea.


Chervil - Anise flavour.  Suitable for fish dishes.


Chrysanthemums - Slightly bitter, peppery flavour. Suitable for salads and infusions. Blanch petals before use.


Citrus Flowers (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit)   Use sparingly for a citrus flavour.


Coriander also known as Cilantro.  Similar flavour to the leaves. Suitable for salads, vegetables, pulses, grains.


Cornflower -  Slightly sweet clove-like flavour. Suitable as a garnish.

     Courgette - see SQUASH

Day Lilies (Hemerocallis) - Slightly sweet flavour.  Suitable for  desserts and for stuffing or deep frying.  NB: Do not eat other types of lilies (Lillium)  as they are poisonous . If in doubt - leave it out.


Dill - Stronger flavour than the leaves. Use as the herb. Suitable for seafood and dressings.

Elderberry - Sweet flavour. Do not wash as this removes the flavour. Check for insects before use. NB  Other parts of this plant are poisonous except the fruit. Do not eat any part of the flower stems.


Fennel -  Mild aniseed flavour. Use as the herb. Suitable for desserts and  garnish.


Gladiolus - Very bland flavour. Suitable for sweet and savoury stuffings (remove the anthers) and individual petals in salads. 


Hibiscus - Citrus flavour.  Suitable for use in salads or as a garnish.  Use sparingly.


Honeysuckle - Sweet honey flavour. Suitable as a garnish for desserts and salads. NB. The berries are highly poisonous  so never eat them.


Jasmine -  Very  fragrant.  Suitable for  tea and scenting rice dishes.


Lavender (flowers only) - Sweet flavour. Suitable as a garnish, in savoury dishes such as stews and desserts such as custards and ices.


Lilac -  Highly floral, slightly bitter lemony flavour. Suitable for  salads. 


Marjoram - Milder flavour than the herb.   Use as the herb. 


Mint - Minty flavour. Use as the herb particularly in marinades and dressings. Use sparingly.

Nasturtiums - Sweet, peppery flavour. Suitable for stuffing. Leaves are also edible lend a peppery taste to salads or in sandwiches. Seed pods can be pickled as used as a substitute for capers.  All in all a very useful culinary plant.


Oregano - Mild version of plant's leaf. Use like the herb. 


Rocket - Also known as Arugla. Taste similar to the leaves so can be used in the same way especially in salads.

Rosemary - Milder version of the herb. Use as the herb especially good with h meats and seafood.


Roses - The flavours depends on type and colour, but generally fruity. All roses are edible. Suitable for garnishing  desserts and salads and excellent in syrups and jellies.


Sage -   Flowers have a milder flavour than the leaves. Suitable for use in salads, bean and vegetable dishes and as a garnish for pork dishes.

Squash  - Many Squash and courgette flowers are edible . Remove the pistols before using. Excellent stuffed and deep fried in a light batter. NB If you grow your own, try using the male flowers first so it doesn't interfere with your vegetable cropping. Pick before fully opened.


Sunflower - Bitter-sweet flavour. Use like chrysanthemums.  Can also be picked before the flower bud opens and steamed when they are reminiscent of artichokes.


Thyme - Milder  than the leaves. Use as you would the herb and in salads, rice and pasta dishes.


Violets, violas, pansies - Sweet, fragrant flavour. Suitable for use whole in salads, desserts and drinks. Excellent crystallised.  Leaves are also edible when steams or boiled.

 

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Precautions

• Never use non-edible flowers as a garnish as they may get eaten by accident.
• People who suffer from allergies should be on alert for possible allergic reaction. Only eat a very small amount initially.
• Use flowers sparingly in your recipes, as too much can lead to digestive problems.

• Never use flowers bought from a florist or other outlet as these will probably have been sprayed with pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals

• Avoid using flowers picked from the roadside as these may have been sprayed subjected to high carbon monoxide levels.

• Do not use lilies from the Lillium family as these are poisonous.

 

Recipes using edible Flowers -  Click here for lots of Edible Flower Recipes

 

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