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A Guide to Edible Flowers

A Guide to Edible Flowers

            Many good cooks love to add new ingredients to their meals, not only their favorite herbs or spices, but an edible flower or two.  Many herbs do double duty in the garden because their flowers are also edible.  No garden should be without an herb garden or herbs planted among the vegetables.  Most seed catalogs have a section on herbs and edible flowers. 

Anise Hyssop The fuzzy finger-sized mauve flowers add an anise (licorice) undertone to green leaf or fruit salads.

Basil is a valuable kitchen herb that produces bracts of tiny white flowers on green or purple stems, which you’ll want to snip immediately to keep the plant from setting seed and lose the aromatic oils in its leaves.  Toss blossoms in your salads or herb butter.

Borage has azure blue flowers with a star-shaped black center and a clear white eye.  This herb likes to grow in a cool season garden.  Leaves and flowers lend a faint cucumber essence to iced drinks and salads.

Calendula or Pot Marigold, use the mild orange and yellow petals when you want to add color to your salads.  They may be used as a saffron substitute.

Carnation, Clove-Pink, and Dianthus need the bitter white ends at the base of the fringed petals clipped before using.  The petals can be used in fruit salads, vinegar, or in syrups.

Chervil flowers are mild anise scented.  Toss the scented umbrellas with field greens, baked with fish or in any bean dish.  This herb likes growing in the shade.

Chives  are a staple in most gardens or grown in pots and have an onion flavor.

Cornflower or Bachelor’s Button have blue petals that add color to a picnic salad, or steam as a mild vegetable.

Daisy use the small, whole flowers of wild daisies in salads.  Use only the tender petals. The buds can be pickled like capers.

Dandelion All parts of this common yard-flower are zesty and edible.  Use the butter-colored flowers in salads or cook with their leaves.  If the common variety doesn’t appeal to you the Italians grow a variety you can order from seed catalogs.

Day Lily  A tradition in the Cuisine of Central Mexico.  Use as a daytime garnish (they close their petals at sunset). 

Geranium or Pelargonium come in many scented leaf varieties.  They can be used to flavor teas, pastries, cakes, and jellies.  Add petals to salads for color.

Hibiscus is a vibrant, semi-tropical flowers which may flavor and color a beverage, be eaten raw, steamed, or made into lemony, tart flavor.  Dried red blossoms are available in oriental and Mexican markets.

Lavender  The resiny flower heads can be used in cooked meals, in homemade vinegars, or mixed in a green salad.

Mexican Tarragon has aromatic leaves and yellow-gold blossoms that are infused with an anise-licorice scent. 

Mustard  is yellow and pungent and is a wild favorite for the gourmet kitchen.  Used to make mustard.

Nasturtium has a peppery flavor and comes in a circus of colors, red, yellow, orange, and maroon.  Pickled buds are a classic caper substitute. 

Orange Bergamont is a mint that has small pink-white flowers and an intense citrus-mint flavor.  Add to salads, vinegars, herb mustard, or cooked vegetables.

Oregano and Marjoram  Use prudently; the tiny rose or white blossoms contain the same oils as the leaves.  These herbs love to grow in the sun.

Pansies and Violas  can be candied and added to desserts or use the flowers in salads.

Plumeria or Frangipani are honey-sweet flowers used in salads, cook them in candy, or dry them for an exotic tea.

Rose   Clip the bitter white end from the base.  Toss all colors in salads, steep them in vinegar, or dry for tea.  They can be crystallized, candied, minced for conserves and red rose sause, or made into your own exotic rosewater.

Sage use the colorful blooms of the garden varieties.  The blooms are as pungent as the leaves.

Savory  The tiny purple flowers of both summer and winter savory is intense and similar to thyme.

Squash, Pumpkin, and Zucchini  Use the young flowers of this large and useful family.  Use boiled, stuffed, baked, grilled, or batter-fried. 

Thyme  Snip the tender flowering tips and mince them into your green salad or serve on fruit.

Tuberose  Individual florets are used by the Chinese in vegetable soup.

Violets  Both flower and leaf are edible.  Candied flowers brushed with egg white are elegant and used on cakes.