Cooking with edible flowers is back. Not that it ever really went away, because fast forward to almost two thousand years ago and you'll find yourself in the blossom-loving reigns of Julius Caesar, Queen Victoria, and the flower-power days of the '60s where blooms were already a gastronomic delight.
Cooking With Edible Flowers
Today, many restaurant chefs and innovative home cooks garnish their entrees with flower blossoms for a touch of elegance. The secret to success when using edible flowers is to keep the dish simple, do not add to many other flavors that will overpower the delicate taste of the flower. Here are some of the best edible flowers to use in your next dish.
If you remember this plant from your childhood, you already know it holds sugary nectar. The blossom also has a sweet taste and achieves a honey flavor without any beehives. Make sure you avoid the berries because they are poisonous. Turn these flowers into a sorbet or jelly by soaking or boiling the blooms to bring out the flavor. You can also infuse the flavoring in cupcakes, then top them with the pale yellow flowers as a garnish.
These beautiful blue, star-shaped flowers from the borage plant taste a bit like cucumber, which is why they've been used in salads since The Elizabethan Age. They are also delicious in lemonade and refreshing cocktails like Pimm's Cup and gin and tonic.
With a hint of citrus flavor, these mauve buds are a fun ingredient to bake with. The pungent flower has a powerful taste, so use it in limited quantities. The lilac flavor can spruce up your desserts or drinks, as it is often made into a simple syrup. Remove the tiny buds from the hard stalk that serves as their stem to enjoy them as a garnish or as candied flowers.
Known as the "poor man's saffron," the sunset-hued marigold flower really does taste like saffron when it's sautéed in olive oil to release its flavor. An easy and prolific edible flower that's easy to grow from seed right in the garden. Separate the petals from the center of the flower and sprinkle the petals into salads.
Both tart and sweet, hibiscus petals have a cranberry-like flavor that makes them perfect for teas and cocktails. Drop fresh hibiscus buds into glasses of bubbly and let your guests watch them bloom before their eyes.
Perfect for a romantic gesture, these aromatic flowers can also complement your cuisine. The petals come in many colors, from a bright pink to a deep scarlet, and they also enhance many foods and drinks like jams, salads, tea, and desserts.
Their soft but fruity flavor is a welcome treat, with a strawberry or spicy aftertaste depending on the type. You can eat any kind of rose, but the deeper- and darker-hued ones have a stronger flavoring that’s better to cook with.
Blossoms have a peppery flavor like watercress. All colors and varieties are tasty in salads or as garnishes. Leaves can be eaten, too. Nasturtiums make an appetizing pesto, or they can be stuffed like zucchini blossoms. You can pair this flower with many savory dishes like baked lamb shank or roasted potatoes.
Sweet and slightly perfumed-tasting, lavender
works well when the buds are sprinkled in champagne and cocktails and over desserts like chocolate cake. Or try it in a lavender peach crisp served with vanilla ice cream.
Pansies have a slightly grassy—even minty—flavor, so they work well in herb-flavored summer cocktails and fruit salads. For a quick, easy, and festive summer hors d'oeuvre, spread some cream cheese on a small round cracker and top it with a whole pansy.
Violets, which come in a range of pastel and vibrant colors, have a sweet and floral taste, making them a perfect companion for everything from salads to iced drinks. They are particularly beautiful when crystallized and used to top frosted cakes and other desserts.
Tips for Using Edible Flowers
Be sure to avoid flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. When purchasing edible flowers, make sure to always get them from the produce section of your grocery store or buy them online. When cooking with edible flowers, clean them by gently washing them in a large bowl of cold water and let them air dry afterward on a paper towel. Use immediately or store them in the refrigerator for up to a week in an airtight container lined with a damp paper towel. Bon appetit!