Edible Flowers for Any Occasion

Edible flowers such as nasturtiums, daylilys, tulips and more can make your dinner vibrant — and tasty, too.

| May/June 2012

Starving for that delicious-looking appetizer, you reach for those crispy little nuggets of deep-fried mushrooms, but … What the hay? Golden and delectable, those morsels turn out to be tasty little dandelion flower buds that have been fried up soft, tender, and reminiscent of wild morel mushrooms. The colorful salad is sprinkled with violets, nasturtiums and calendula petals. Not only that, the ice cream is flavored with pastel specks of lavender-colored … well … lavender. The ruby-jeweled jelly is created from summer rose petals. And even the tuna salad bowl is edible: It’s a hibiscus blossom.

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From the finest restaurants to the humblest farm kitchen, more and more cooks are finding that adding flowers to an ever-increasing number of menu items adds color, excitement, flavor and a touch of enticement — and maybe even some romance.

For ages, bakers have been making candied violets to decorate party cakes. Nasturtiums look pretty sprinkled on a salad. Diners now are discovering that flowers have more than visual appeal — they also have flavor. Specific flowers are mingling pleasantly with a variety of entrees, salads and desserts — as one of the ingredients, no longer merely a pretty decoration.

Flowers are most commonly used fresh or as garnishes. When cooked, they frequently wilt and lose their bright colors (though cauliflower and broccoli are actually “flowers,” too). Topping cakes with bright pansies, garnishing soups with chive flowers, or using flowers such as tulips or daylilies as bowls to hold tuna salad or cottage cheese are all good ways to experiment with blooms fresh from your garden.

Of course, as with any other foods you use, you will want to add flowers to your meal carefully. Roadside flowers are often polluted with vehicle exhaust residues, roadway hydrocarbon runoff, dust and trash. Some flowers do not taste good, and some are actually toxic, such as potato, foxglove and sweet pea. Flowers served at the table should be grown organically, with no residual pesticides clinging to the petals.

6/20/2012 2:41:36 PM

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