Edible flowers have been incorporated as a part of the human diet since ancient times. The Romans used them medicinally and to make love potions as far back as during the rule of Julius Caesar. They were also used by Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern cultures for centuries before the common era. Consumption of edible flowers came back in to favor with Queen Victoria, when roses were used to flavor foods, and petals of a variety of flowers were used as edible food decor.
Today, feasting on flowers has regained all the popularity that the tradition had lost since the turn of the 20th century. Edible flowers are used mainly for aesthetic and flavor purposes, but there are some flowers that also have health benefits. Several easy ways to include edible flowers in to your diet are in salads, as dessert decor, or for a splash of color in your favorite cocktail.
The following is a short list of our favorite flowers to use in dishes. There are many other flowers that can be consumed as well; check out this article for a much more extensive list.
We know that squash are delicious to eat once they are fully grown, but have you tried their blossoms? Squash blossoms have recently become a more popular menu item in restaurants and for caterers. Often, they are stuffed with cheese, fried, and are served salted or with a dipping sauce. They have a mild and delicate flavor, which allows for them to take on the tastes of what they are cooked with, while upholding their delicious, crispy texture that is gained once they are fried. For a great recipe, click here. Another idea is to use these flowers as a pizza topping. Their mild flavor allows room for creativity in the kitchen.
Lavender is a commonly known purple flowering plant. The flowers oil is frequently used for calming purposes. Less commonly, the flowers are ingested. Lavender can be steeped with warm animal milk or nut milk to make a lavender latte, or it can be used as a beautiful and delicious addition to a chocolate cake. For some added color during celebrations, sprinkle fresh lavender flowers into champagne. Cheers!
Nastertiums are a peppery, slightly bitter tasting flower. Both the stem and the flower can be consumed, but the bitter taste of this plant is much more mild in the flower than in the stem. Besides the allure of its beauty, this plant has multiple health benefits. It is a known anti-oxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. And, lucky for those of us who live in Northern California, these flower like weeds here. When gathering them, just be careful to gather them in areas where you know that they have not been sprayed with pesticides or other unwanted chemicals. Adding nastertiums to salads is an easy way to gain their health benefits, and to brighten up a salad. What you may not have considered is putting them in to spring rolls. We found a great recipe here if you want to try them out.
Pansies are another flower that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They are small, lovely additions to add beauty to any dish. We like decorating Petite Fours with them, as their taste is light and slightly minty, and can therefore be used as a dessert flower. Another dish is Cucumber and Salmon hors d’oeuvres decorated with pansies for a simple, beautiful summer appetizer.
For more information regarding taste profiles and health risks, read this guide.
Happy flower hunting!
Julia Holm, Director of Sales and Operations