Edible Flowers

The Victorians loved their candied violets and rose petals, using them to decorate tea cakes and the like.  As a kid I would read the recipes with fascination, but all the brushing on of egg white and dusting with superfine sugar seemed too complicated to actually try.

Edible flowers are now coming back into vogue again, thankfully without  the complicated preparations of the past. A few petals scattered on the salad plate and voila, we too are now trendy and elegant, almost without effort.

Each season give us a new, colorful and tasty flower for for the picking. Early spring brings us violets, that Victorian favorite. They are sweet to the taste and just right for garnishing deserts or drinks. They would also make a pretty addition to a strawberry and spinach salad. Their cousins pansies and Johnny-jump-ups are delicious as well.

A surprising early spring treat is our native red bud flower. They have an almost nutty flavor, and can be used in salads or stirred into baked goods in the same manner as blueberries.

photo courtesy of Neil T

As spring progresses roses and day lilies come into season. Rose petals, another Victorian favorite, go well in salads or can be made into a delicate jelly. Be sure to snip off the white part of the petal, as it is bitter. Day lilies come in a wide variety of colors and flavors. One dedicated day lily connoisseur even created a list of the tastiest varieties, including  Hyperion, a beautiful yellow, Pandora’s Box, a stunning white with a purple eye and Stella D’Oro, a repeat blooming little gold blossomed variety. They can be used in salads or stuffed like squash blossoms.

Of course many herb flowers are edible as well. Chive blossoms add a nice onion flavor to salads. Basil blossoms, which need to be trimmed off the plants anyway, are good tossed with pasta. Most herb flowers taste like the herb itself, and can be added to salads both for ‘pretty’ and for seasoning.

OK. The standard words of caution. Just because its a flower doesn’t mean you can eat it, so don’t go around nibbling flowers indiscriminately- you may get a nasty surprise. Don’t eat them if they have been sprayed with a bunch of pesticides. Don’t go eating them by the bucket loads. As with most things a little is good, a lot is hard on the digestion. Young flowers are best. Older ones that are turning brown will not grace the plate and have probably become bitter.

I’ve barely touched on the extensive lists of edible flowers. There are a lot of interesting and surprising blossoms to garnish with, to stuff, to season with, even to make wine out of.  Enjoy the feast to the palate and the eye that flowers can bring to your table!