The Experts Guide to the Top 8 Edible Flowers
Last updated on : August 03 2023
Flowers aren't just pretty to look at; they are also full of vitamins and nutrients integral to human health.
While you can use many flowers in cooking, some will taste better than others. So let's take a look at the 8 tastiest flowers and how to incorporate them into dishes.
How to Add Edible Flowers to Your Meals
The following flowers are all editable and will add a bit of flavor, depth, or color to most dishes.
Overview: Spicy, Peppery, and Tasty in Soups, Salads, and Dips
Nasturtiums top the list of flowers you can eat because they are spicy, peppery, yet also sweet and mild at the same time.
This flower tastes similar to a radish or watercress, so they aren't spicy enough to place in a taco for extra heat. Instead, food lovers will add nasturtiums to salads or dip mixes that pair well with pitas, baguettes, or sourdough bread recipes.
- Editable: The edible parts of the nasturtium are the leaves, petals, and seeds.
- Nutrition: The petals and leaves contain a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidants.
- Colors: Nasturtiums come in orange, red, and yellow. Leaves are deep green.
- Uses: Nasturtiums are commonly eaten raw, as a garnish, or ground down into dips.
- Dishes: Stinging Nettle Soups, Grilled Vegetable Soups, Pomegranate Syrups, Nasturtium Garnish Smoked Salmon and Eggs, and Summer Salads.
Add nasturtiums to Summer Salads by sprinkling a handful of petals with spinach leaves.
Walnuts and peanuts pair well with nasturtiums, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing won't overpower the spiciness of the petals. Salad dressings with a dijon mustard base also work.
Overview: Sweet, Sugary, and Yummy in Cakes, Cookies, and Teas
Roses are used in sweet dishes and desserts because their sugary flavoring brings an extra glucose rush to baked goods. All parts of the rose are editable, but you'll want to remove the bitter white leaves to maximize taste.
Unless roses are grown in your backyard, be sure to ask for a pesticide-free variety as these blooms tend to contain a higher amount of toxins.
- Editable: The edible parts of roses are the leaves, petals, hips, and seeds.
- Petal Nutrition: Has vitamins A, B, C, E, K, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and antioxidants.
- Colors: Common rose colors are red, pink, white, purple, yellow, and orange.
- Uses: You can eat roses raw, as a garnish, in teas, used as a flavor for vinegar, perfumes, hair and beauty products, alcohol, or used as medicine.
- Dishes: Pistachio Rose Cakes, Pink Rose Meringues (cookies), Rose Ice Cream, Rose Water Teas, Candied Roses, Strawberry Rose Lassi (yogurt), and Rose Granola.
Add roses as a garnish to just about any sweet treat.
Candies Roses, which only require egg whites and sugar, can be made in 5 minutes. Then, after 24 hours of being left out on the counter, you'll have a sweet, low-calorie candy that's much healthier for you than store-bought varieties.
Bitter, but Tastes Similarly to Saffron and Used as a Spice
Calendula blossoms are known as the "poor man's saffron" because they taste similar to the expensive, bitter spice. Like saffron, we know the calendula flower for its holistic properties.
Although fresh calendula isn't considered "tasty" by most metrics when their petals are dried, their authentic flavor comes out. As a garnish, many admire this flower for its color and size.
- Editable: The entire flower is editable, but only the petals taste like saffron.
- Nutrition: Calendulas are high in vitamin A, C and are anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.
- Colors: This flower comes in orange and yellow. Leaves are deep green.
- Uses: Calendulas are eaten raw, added to salsa, salads, scrambled eggs, ice cubes, and paneers. Calendula tea is drunk globally to relieve symptoms of many illnesses.
- Dishes: Calendula Infused Oils, Whipped Coconut Oil, Calendula Cupcakes (as garnish), Tea. When dried, you can put calendula in soups, salads, eggs, and salsa.
The calendula flower doesn't have many uses in recipes when fresh, but the possibilities are endless once they're dried.
To dry calendula petals, hang them upside down in a dark environment until dried, or place them in the microwave wrapped in silica sand for 2-3 minutes.
Overview: Soothing with a hint of Mint and Found in Baked Goods
Although lavender is more well-known for its soothing properties and its effects on sleep, its floral and rosemary/mint-like taste goes well in sweet or savory meals.
Like mint, use lavender sparingly, or you'll quickly overpower any dish.
Dried lavender can be used as a garnish on almost any meal, as its flavor profile is less intense and won't interact poorly with the meal.
- Editable: The entire herb is editable, but not to pets, specifically cats.
- Nutrition: The petals and leaves contain vitamin A, calcium, and iron.
- Colors: We find lavender often in purple, but bluer varieties exist.
- Uses: Can be eaten raw, used in medicine and pharmaceutical products.
- Dishes: Lavender Salads, Soups, Stews and Pastas, Lavender Tea, Lavender and Walnut Cookies, Vanilla Lavender Cake, and Lavender Flavored Vinegar.
Add dried lavender to soups, stews, and salads for flavor, but only include this herb in baked goods if you genuinely want to improve the sweetness of a meal.
It's best to taste the lavender you have first, so you understand how much of its floral taste a dish will need.
5. Squash Blossom
Overview: Male Zucchini Flowers That Taste like Mild Squash
The squash blossom is the male equivalent to the female squash, but the zucchini squash blossom is the most popular.
Squash blossoms are a common ingredient in multiple Mexican dishes, like the Flores de Calabaza. This delicate flower tastes best when fresh and resembles the female squash equivalent. And the zucchini blossom tastes like a mild zucchini.
- Editable: The whole plant is edible, but the blossoms contain all the flavor.
- Nutrition: The blossom contains vitamin A, C, iron, potassium, and calcium
- Colors: Squash blossoms are a mix of yellow, orange, and green.
- Uses: Not commonly eaten raw as they're usually chopped with other ingredients, stuffed with herbs or meat, and can be deep-fried with the stem in-tact.
- Dishes: Fried Squash Blossoms, Baked Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta, Zucchini Blossom Sauce for Pasta, Squash Blossom Quesadillas, and Squash Blossom Crema.
Squash blossoms are incredibly versatile, but they're most popular fried or stuffed with ricotta.
Since the blossom almost closes at the top, they can hold a lot of ingredients and spices. In egg-noodle-based pasta, squash blossoms pair well with meats, cheeses, and tomato sauce.
Overview: A Tasty Weed That Protects Against Heart Disease
Often considered a weed, dandelions are a superfood that includes multiple vitamins, minerals, and nutrients integral to heart health. Its leaves, when picked young, taste honey-like, but they turn bitter as they age. Dandelion leaves taste similar to arugula but a bit spicier, and you can also use them in salads. Don't pass these weeds up; they're perfect for you and taste great.
- Editable: The entire dandelion is edible, but the roots contain most of the nutrients.
- Nutrition: Dandelions are a true superfood. They're high in vitamin A, C, K, calcium, potassium, folate, iron, magnesium, improves heart health, and prevent some cancers.
- Colors: Dandelions come in yellow. Leaves are a deep, dark green.
- Uses: Can be eaten raw, blended, in teas, fried, cooked, stir-fried, or roasted.
- Dishes: Dandelion Root Tea, Dandelion Greens, Garlic Pizza, Dandelion Greens Salad, Dandelion Wine, Syrup, or Jelly. Dandelion Cookies, and Fried Dandelions.
Don't pick dandelions on the side of the road because they'll be laced with pesticides. If you have a yard, select them from there or steal them from your neighbors (with their permission, of course)!
Dandelions are usable in almost any recipe, so experiment with ways to add them.
Overview: Violas, Pansies, and Violets Add Brightness to Candies and Cakes
Since violas come in various colors, they are popular garnishes in baked goods, ice cubes, or popsicles.
A classic viola-based hors d'oeuvres is the Cream Cheese Viola, which can be picked up and eaten whole.
Pansies and violets are perfect for decorating cakes and candying, but they look incredible on top of cookies and grand wedding cakes.
- Editable: You can eat the entire flower as the whole viola tastes the same.
- Nutrition: Violas have vItamin A, C, antioxidants, and are anti-bacterial/inflammatory.
- Colors: Violas come in most colors, including single and combination shades.
- Uses: Find violas in ice cubes, popsicles, garnishes, pharmaceuticals, and oils.
- Dishes: Viola Jelly, Vinegar, Syrups and Ice Cubes, Viola Flower Crepes, Viola Cakes, Viola Tea, Candied Viola, Viola Casseroles, Viola Salads, and Egg and Viola Omelettes.
Pansies, violas, and violets are added to foods for their taste, as they taste a bit grassy with slight hints of sugar.
Violas are great ingredients to add color to jellies, vinegar, ice cubes, and syrups. However, adding too many violas could spoil most dishes.
Mild Vegetable Flavor That's Similar to Asparagus
Lilies aren't typically edible for humans, but you can consume the daylily. As they taste similar to asparagus, you can save yourself from a hefty grocery bill by picking these flowers instead of purchasing the vegetable.
Daylilies are incredibly hardy, and you can eat in a tuber, bud, or floral state. Daylily tubers taste like green beans or radishes, giving this plant variety.
- Editable: Daylily blooms hold all the flavor, but the entire plant is edible.
- Nutrition: Contains vitamin A, B, B2, B3, C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Colors: Available in single or combination shades of yellow, red, pink, purple, and pink.
- Uses: Daylilies are primarily ornamental or used in traditional Chinese cuisine.
- Dishes: Daylily Fresh Corn and Black-Bean Salad, Mushroom Golden Needles (daylily tubers), Vegetarian Stew, Fried Daylilies, and Squash with Sweet Onions and Daylilies.
Please note that daylilies can produce an allergic reaction in some adults, so it's best to eat tiny amounts of the flower before cooking a whole recipe.
You also have to make sure you're eating an actual day-lily and not another variant. Finally, wash the daylilies thoroughly as they tend to attract ants.
Editable flowers come in all shapes, colors, and flavors, but you need to make sure that they are fit for consumption, aren't laced with pesticides, and are washed thoroughly.
Treat your editable flowers like fruits and vegetables, and you should be fine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the questions most frequently asked by our readers.
1. Are all flowers safe to eat?
Not all flowers are edible, and consuming the wrong ones can be harmful. Stick to edible flowers accepted as safe for consumption, such as roses, violets, pansies, nasturtiums, and lavender. Always verify the edibility of a flower before using it in your dishes.
2. How do I know if a flower is edible?
To ensure a flower is edible, identify it correctly using a reliable source such as a reputable gardening book or website. Avoid eating flowers from florists or those treated with pesticides, as they may be unsafe for consumption.
3. Can I use any part of the flower in my recipes?
Generally, the petals of edible flowers are used in culinary applications. Remove the pistils and stamens as they can be bitter and sometimes have a different texture. Some flowers also have edible sepals and buds, so it's best to research the specific flower you're using.
4. How should I clean edible flowers before using them?
Gently rinse the flowers under cold running water or use a gentle spray to remove any dirt or insects. Pat them dry with a paper towel or let them air dry on a clean cloth. Handle the flowers delicately to avoid bruising.
5. Can I cook edible flowers, or are they best used fresh?
Edible flowers are versatile and can be used fresh or cooked, depending on the recipe. Some dishes, like salads, desserts, and beverages, benefit from the uncooked, vibrant petals. Other recipes, for example, infused oils, syrups, or baking, may involve cooking the flowers to extract their flavors.
6. What are some popular ways to incorporate edible flowers into dishes?
You can use edible flowers to garnish salads, desserts, and cocktails, adding an eye-catching touch to your creations. They can also be candied, turned into syrups, infused into oils, or frozen into ice cubes for a burst of color and flavor.
7. Are there any health benefits to consuming edible flowers?
Some edible flowers contain antioxidants and essential nutrients. For instance, lavender is known for its relaxing properties, while nasturtiums have antibacterial elements. However, the amounts of these nutrients in the small quantities of flowers typically used in cooking are not substantial.
8. Can I use edible flowers in all types of cuisine?
Absolutely! Edible flowers are used in cuisines globally, from Asian to European and beyond. They can elevate the flavors and presentation of both sweet and savory dishes.
9. Can I preserve edible flowers for future use?
Yes, you can preserve edible flowers for later use. Drying flowers is a common preservation method; you can air-dry them or use a dehydrator. Once dried, store them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight. You can also freeze edible flowers in ice cubes or create floral-infused oils or vinegars for longer shelf life.
10. Can I use edible flowers if I have allergies?
Be cautious when trying new foods, including edible flowers, if you have allergies. If you're unsure whether a particular flower may trigger an allergic reaction, consult a healthcare professional before consuming it.
Remember, the world of edible flowers is vast and exciting, but always exercise caution and proper research to ensure a safe and enjoyable culinary experience!
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