If it is one thing that I’ve come to discover over the years is that every fad or trend that falls out of favor eventually seems to return to prominence. Using flowers for cooking purposes dates back to ancient Rome and was popular in Chinese and Indian Cuisine. Edible flowers were very popular in England during the Victorian era and during the 1960’s and 1970’s many magazines ran articles about and published recipes that contained edible flowers as an ingredient. After falling out of favor for many years cooking with edible flowers is making a comeback as chefs are finding that the right edible flower can really enhance the flavor and appearance of a meal.
The first thing to keep in mind is that not every flower is edible. Some flowers can actually make you ill and you should never use flowers that may have been exposed to pesticides or other chemicals. Growing edible flowers of your own can be very easy and cost effective. You can buy nasturtium seeds and other edible flowers from our website. Check out our article on how to grow nasturtium flowers here. Your grocery store might have them available; however, your local farmers’ market is probably a better alternative. You can talk directly to the vendors to ensure the flowers are grown safely and the selection is likely to be far greater than at the supermarket. If these choices do not work for you then you may also look online for gourmet shops that sell botanicals.
Once you obtain the flowers for your dish you need to make sure you clean and store them properly. First, take the flowers and shake them to remove any insects and dirt that may be present. Then fill a bowl with cold water and wash the flowers to clean them thoroughly. Once this is done place the flowers on a paper towel and allow the flowers to air dry. You’ll want to use the flowers right away if you can but you might also store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
If you are not sure which flowers might be good choices for your kitchen here is some information on some popular choices:
Bee Balm - Has a taste that is a cross between oranges and lemons. The red flowers have a minty flavor. The leaves also can be steeped into a tea.
Chive Blossoms - Their flavor is similar to that of an onion. You can use the whole flower or the individual petals.
Dandelions - The flowers are best when they are in bud or very young. They have a sweet taste like honey but mature flowers are bitter.
Hibiscus - They have a sweet flavor and are often used in teas and cocktails.
Nasturtiums - They have a peppery taste and their bright colors look spectacular as part of a spinach salad. They can also be drizzled with olive oil and coated lightly with salt and pepper then served on small slices of toasted bread.
Pansies – Pansies have a slightly green or grassy flavor. If you eat only the petals the taste is mild. You can eat the entire flower but it has a winter, green overtone.
Squash Blossoms - The most popular way to eat these are deep fried.
These are just a sample of the edible flowers that could find their way into your recipes. If you have any recipes that you want to share with us please feel free to post them on our Facebook page.