(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 26, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Edible flowers have been used for hundreds of years as flavoring and garnishes. Research has shown that edible flowers have been used by the Roman, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures as far back as 25 BC. During Queen Victoria’s reign, edible flowers found their way to the new world where they are experiencing a resurgence today.
Besides making the food look nice. edible flowers add a unique taste to various dishes. They are also rich in nutrients: rose hips are very high in Vitamin C; marigolds and nasturtiums also contain Vitamin C, and dandelion blossoms contain vitamins A and C. All edible flowers have almost zero calories.
For those of you with allergies remove the pollen-bearing parts of the flower, the pistils and stamens before eating the flowers.
Needless to say if you are growing flowers for consumption make sure that they have not been treated with any chemical sprays.
The flowers should be picked when fully open in the cool of the day.
After picking place long stemmed flowers in water and store in a cool place. Place short stemmed flowers between damp paper towels and store in the refrigerator.
Flowers that are grown in different locations may have different tastes due to soil types, and other environmental conditions.
Some flowers are toxic, here is a list of the most common toxic plants, and this is not a complete list. Be sure of what you have before you consume it.
Toxic Flowers include Azalea, Clematis, Crocus, Daphne, foxglove, Amaryllis, cardinal flower, Nicotiana, mistletoe, Rhododendron, castor bean and calla lily.
Here is a partial list of edible flowers. For a more complete listing. you may want to check out one of these books: Edible Flowers: from Garden to Palate by Cathy Wilkinson Barash or The Edible Garden Series by Rosalind Creasy.
FlowerTasteAgastacheLicoriceAlliumOnionHollyhockBitterChamomileApple FlavoredTuberous BegoniaCitrusEnglish DaisyBitterBorageCucumberMarigoldPeperyChrysanthemumMildChicoryBitter similar to endiveSquash BloomsSquashDianthusClovesFennelLicoriceDaylilyAsparagus/ZucchiniHyssopSimilar to tonicLavenderFloralBee BalmTea likeRoseHighly perfumed/sweetScented GeraniumLike variety selected, lemon, rose etc
The next time you are cooking for your family or friends, impress them with edible flowers, a touch of the exotic gleaned from your own backyard!
Edible flowers are also an excellent choice from which to make flavored vinegars or oils. Place in a container with white vinegar or into safflower or canola oil. Seal tightly and let set for 4 to 6 weeks; you’ll have some new flavorings for those fresh spring salads.
Photos courtesy of DG PlantFiles.