Besides using thyme, oregano, cilantro or other herbs to add zest to the flavor of foods, the culinary use of flowers dates back thousands of years to the Chinese, Greeks, and Romans. Whether spicy, floral and fragrant, or even slightly bitter, edible flowers add color and flavor to many different dishes.
Now, not all flowers are edible. First and foremost, be absolutely certain that the flowers you choose are safe to eat. Never use flowers that you might purchase from a florist, grocery store, or even in from the garden department of large retail store. Flowers cultivated as ornamental plants for garden use are not intended for human consumption. The plants most likely have been chemically treated with pesticides or insecticides and any remaining residue is toxic if ingested. And those pretty wildflowers growing along the roadside? Leave them be. There is no certainty that they have not been contaminated with chemicals from car exhaust or herbicides.Consider eating flowers that you have grown yourself. If you treat your flowers with any chemicals, be sure that the chemicals are labeled as acceptable for use on food products. Since flowers are extremely perishable, use as soon as possible after being picked. The best time to pick flowers is right after they've opened. Remove the pistils and stamens and rinse the flowers well in water and blot dry. If you must store them, wrap them gently in moist paper towels then wrap in plastic and store in your refrigerator temporarily. If you are looking to purchase edible flowers, check with specialty grocers or on the internet.
What kind of flowers can you use and in what ways you might ask? Impatiens, fuchia, gladiolus, hibiscus, hollyhock, lavender, bachelor buttons, sunflowers, marigolds, calendula, carnations, lilacs, lavender, nasturitums, pansies, violets... and of course, roses, are all edible. They can be used in salads, teas, drinks, garnishes for deserts, jams, syrups, and even stir frys. Here's a sampling of some of these edible flowers and some ways you can enjoy them.
Lilacs are pungent and citrisy. They can be used to make a delicious lilac leaf or lilac blossom syrup.
Dianthus (carnation) petals are sweet and are a wonderful addition to desserts such as the delectable cupcakes pictured below. Look closely, and you'll see the sweet confections are
also decorated with some violas.
Sunflowers are another tasty treat.
The petals are wonderful in salads and the buds can be steamed just like artichokes!
A flavorful tea can be made from the calyx (the outer whorl of protective leaves of a flower) of the Hibiscus flower
The tea is crimson is color and has a rich
And of course there's roses ...
or make some delightful rose jelly!
And don't forget that edible flowers can make that
"Special Occasion" even more memorable ...