We love the look of edible flowers- they lend a touch of elegance, and fun, to any meal. They’re particularly compelling in the summer, when many of them can be found in your own garden. So we decided to dedicate this week’s blog post to them. You’ll learn which flowers are best, some tips, and then we share with you our five favorite recipes for dishes with edible flowers. If you’re a gardener, a chef, a person who likes to entertain, or simply like pretty things, we invite you to read on.
Flowers are more common in the kitchen than you realize
Any idea what kind of flower this is?
What about now? Hint . . . look carefully at the flowers that haven’t opened yet:
They are caper flowers! Did you know that? Capers are the buds of these lovely flowers. They are picked before they open, then pickled in a salty solution. The really good ones from Sicily are salted and dried, which is why they taste completely different than the kind you buy in jars filled with liquid. This is just one example of flowers that are commonly used in the kitchen.
Which flowers can be eaten?
The truth is, many types of flowers are edible: probably many more than you realize. Many flowers taste like the plants they grown on, but with a milder flavor. Here’s a fairly exhaustive list.
However, there are some that are much easier to obtain, are more decorative, or simply tastier than others. Here is a short list we’ve compiled of what we think are the most useful and beautiful flowers to cook with.
These are fast becoming the most popular edible flower. They have a sweet, spicy flavor similar to watercress. They are delicious when tosed into salads with milder, sweeter greens (like Boston lettuce). They can be used in dishes as a milder substitute for pepper, and they pair well with seafood. You can also pick the seed pods when they are young, pickle, and you have a cheap substitute for capers.
Zucchini flowers, along with pumpkin and other types of squash flowers, are all edible. They have a milder taste than the fruit of the plant. Our favorite way to eat them is to stuff them with ricotta, batter and fry (see recipe below). You can also put them on pizzas, in tacos, or use as toppings for a salad or soup. We think they work especially well as a topping for squash soup.
Marigolds have a light citrus flavor. They are excellent in salads and with chicken dishes (we think they work especially well with tarragon). They can also be used as a cheap substitute for saffron.
Pansies have a slightly sweet, green flavor. The petals have a very mild taste, and they come in many different colors. This makes them ideal for “decorating” many dishes. We think they’re particularly lovely in fruit salads. They can also be used in regular salads. What we really love for summer is to serve a cold fruit soup and put pansies on the top (see recipe below).
You can eat both the flowers of violets, and the leaves. The leaves have a slightly peppery flavor. The flowers are very mild. You can toss both leaves and flowers into a fresh summer salad. As the flowers are so delicate, they take on the flavor of what they are served with. Our favorite is to sugar them and use them to decorate cakes.
Lavender flowers taste like they smell, only more subtle and with a slight citrus note. They can be used in many dishes- both sweet and savory. They add an excellent taste to many beef dishes (see below). You can also put it in salads, lemonade or desserts. We once had a lavender creme brulee that was delicious.
All roses are edible. However, some taste better than others so make sure you sample them before adding them to any recipe. The darker ones tend to have more flavor- they can taste like strawberries, or even green apples. Make sure to trim off the bottom, white portion of the petals as it can be extremely bitter. You can make a tea of the rose hips- they are an excellent source of Vitamin C. Roses are best in desserts, and look lovely served on top of cakes. You can also put some petals in a glass of Champagne for a festive, pre-dinner drink.
Things to keep in mind
Many stores, like Whole Foods, have started selling edible flowers in packages. This is a safe, easy way to buy them for consumption. If you eat flowers grown in your garden, please keep in mind these basic common sense rules:
- Make sure you do not eat any flower that has been treated with pesticides. Full stop.
- Before you eat them, thoroughly clean them and make sure they are bug free.
- If you aren’t 100% sure a flower is safe to eat, please research it fully. Most are safe, but some flowers are poisonous so exercise caution.
- Never garnish a dish with a flower that is not 100% safe to eat. If you put something on a plate, people will asume it’s safe to eat.
Here are five of our favorite recipes that use edible flowers. If you want more, keep checking back on this blog- we will post a new recipe every day next week. Bon Appetit!