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Common Edible Flowers

Common Edible Flowers

I love food and I love flowers.  So what could be cooler than edible flowers?!  Edible flowers add color, magic and romance to a meal.  They can be added to salads, soups, frozen into icecubes, used as a garnish, etc. Lots of flowers are considered edible, here I’ll list some of the best and most common examples.  These flowers are beautiful, mostly easy to grow and are a worthy part of any garden.  The fact that they’re edible is just icing on the cake!

Common Edible Flowers:

  • Bachelor’s Buttons– these pretty little flowers are easy to grow from seed.  Plant them in a sunny spot and they’ll grow a beautiful array of blue, white or pink flowers.  They have a mild, fresh flavor and look beautiful in salads or as a garnish.
  • Borage – this is a great looking plant with lots of little blue star shaped flowers (they’re sometimes pink, purple or white).  It’s a low maintenance plant that constantly self seeds.  Both its leaves and flowers are edible and taste lightly of cucumber.  Flowers and young leaves make a nice addition to salads, sandwiches and the flowers look great floating in a bowl of punch!  Large leaves become prickly but they can be sautéed and eaten like greens.  As an added bonus, borage is an excellent plant to have in your garden because it attracts beneficial insects that prey on garden pests.
  • Chive blossoms – many people grow chives in their herb garden and don’t realize that the flowers are also edible.  The flowers are pretty pink or purple tufts that have a light oniony/garlicky flavor.  To use, break the flower tufts apart into individual flowers.  This savory flower can be used similarly to the chives themselves.  They’re a beautiful addition to normal salads, potato salads, chicken salads, dips, scrambled eggs, etc.
  • Fuchsia – these gorgeous flowers are commonly seen growing in ornamental containers or hanging baskets (although they can be planted in the ground).  They’re somewhat needy in that they require regular fertilizer and  a moderate amount of shade.  But they’re so darn pretty they’re worth the work.  They have a somewhat tart flavor and make the prettiest garnish I’ve ever seen.
  • Nasturtiums – these are an easy, low maintenance flower.  They grow quickly and actually prefer normal to poor soil. Most varieties are climbing or vining (great for window boxes or hanging baskets).  They have attractive lily pad shaped leaves and bright beautiful flowers in shades of yellow, orange or red depending on the variety.  Both the leaves and flowers are edible.  They have a peppery, slightly spicy flavor that adds a nice punch to salads and other savory dishes.  The buds are sometimes pickled and used like capers.
  • Pansies – these sweet old fashioned flowers are in the viola family, which is full of edible flowers.  They tend to be mild with an almost pea like flavor. They’re beautiful, easy to grow and can be used in a variety of sweet or savory dishes.  They’re often candied and added to desserts.
  • Squash blossoms – this is literally the blossom from a squash plant (most commonly zuchinni or yellow squash).  They’re large pretty flowers with a mild, slightly sweet flavor.  They can be eaten raw or cooked.  They’re delicious stuffed with cheese or bean mixtures.  For an extra treat the stuffed blossoms can be battered and pan fried.  Or just sauté them with a little oil and garlic.  Yum!
  • Sweet Violets – this is another commonly eaten flower in the viola family.  They have a sweet, nectar like flavor and perfumy smell. They’re great in fruit salads, desserts and are often crystallized. Please note:  All flowers in the viola family are edible but occasionally a plant is called a violet (such as African Violets) that is not in this family.  African Violets are not true violets and are NOT considered edible.  Make sure the flowers you are eating are true violets.

How to Prepare Flowers:

Remove the stems, styles and stamens from your flowers (the tubes sticking out from the center of the flower).  Some people are sensitive to pollen which is concentrated on these structures.  They also tend to be bitter so removing them will improve the flavor of the flowers.  Gently rinse and strain the flowers.  Set them on some paper towels to dry and keep them away from direct sunlight to minimize wilting.  Flowers are best used as soon as possible (within a day or at most two) because they will quickly wilt and start to discolor.  Store flowers in the fridge either loosely wrapped or floating in a glass of water.

General Flower Eating Rules:

  • Only eat flowers that you know are edible.  Refer to a reputable source for flower identification and never eat something you haven’t positively identified.
  • Educate yourself on the flower parts – sometimes the entire plant is edible, other times only certain parts are.
  • Don’t eat flowers that were treated with chemicals (this includes flowers growing on the side of the road and those bought from a florist).
  • Use flowers in small quantities (like a spice or garnish) not as a main dish.

 

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