Several flowering plants are edible; can be used in cooking or for garnishing. These edible flowers are commonly grown in our garden and are often seen in parks or by the roadside. But, we never realized their value as food. Here are some easy-to-follow recipes for cooking edible flowers.
A little friendly reminder, though, before you hit the kitchen, make sure that you use flowers that you have personally grown since you know what goes into the plant during its cultivation. If you need to purchase, make sure that they are organic, free from any chemicals.
Nasturtium or Indian cress (also known as monks cress) is part of the flowering plant family Tropaeolaceae originated in the Andes from Bolivia north to Colombia. It has disc-shaped leaves and flowers in orange or red shade. Nasturtium flowers do not only taste good, but they contain a fair amount of vitamin C and lutein.
All parts of the flower can be eaten, from the flowers to the leaves and seeds. The flowers have a sweet taste, and the leaves and seeds have a spicy flavor. You can add the flowers and leaves to salads, and you can make fake capers out of the seeds. You can also make soups out of these flowers, just like this first recipe on our list.
Recipe from: Epicurious
- 3 leeks, cleaned and sliced thin
- 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp. butter or olive oil
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cup water
- 1 cup fresh nasturtium flowers, chopped
- 1 cup fresh nasturtium leaves, chopped salt to taste
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream (or evaporated skim milk for lower fat)
- In a heavy soup pot, sauté; the leeks and garlic in 2 tbsp. butter until they are tender. Do not brown them.
- Add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and a little of the broth. And, stir in the flour and cook gently for a minute or so, stirring constantly.
- Slowly add the rest of the broth, water, and seasonings. Heat almost to boiling and simmer gently for several minutes to blend the flavors.
- Add the nasturtium leaves and flowers, and simmer for another few minutes.
- Slowly pour in the cream and heat gently. Remember never boil a cream soup, for it will curdle.
NOTE: If you do not eat dairy products you can use one-half soy milk and one-half soft tofu blended together, in place of the cream. You can also enjoy the soup with oyster crackers or croutons.
Violets in the viola species are a wildflower widely known to grow wild in many parts of the world. The most common of these edible violets is the blue-violet (Viola sororia, Violaceae). It is native to central and eastern North America.
The leaves and flowers of the usual blue-violet and other species (like the confederate violet) are edible and have a mild wintergreen flavor. The leaves and flowers of violets contain high amounts of vitamin C and A. You can add the flowers to salads and soups as a garnish. You can use the plant to make syrups, tea, and baked desserts, just like this candied violet recipe.
A reminder, though, avoid using or eating these flowers excessively as it contains a compound called saponin, causing digestive issues.
Recipe from: The Spruce Eats
- 20 violet flowers (with about 2-inches of stem attached)
- 1 egg white (beaten until frothy)
- 2 tablespoons powdered or confectioner’s sugar
- Beat the egg white until it is frothy all the way through but not stiff.
- If you have a sifter, place the powdered or confectioner’s sugar in it. If not, place the sugar in a small bowl. (You may want to work over another plate or cutting board to make it easier for you to clean up.)
- Pick up a violet flower by the stem. Dip a flower into the egg white, twirling it gently to coat the entire flower. Shake off excess egg white.
- If using a sifter, sift the powdered sugar over the flower. Twirl the flower stem between the thumb and forefinger of the hand, holding it so that the flower gets evenly coated with sugar on all sides. Don’t worry about candying the stem – you’re going to discard it before you get to the finished product.
- Place the violet on a paper towel. And repeat the egg and sugar steps with the rest of the violet flowers.
- Transfer the sugared flowers, still on the paper towel, to a shelf in your refrigerator. Be sure none of the violets are touching. Leave them uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours. As the flowers dry, most of the sugar will be absorbed by the egg white, creating a glaze on the petals.
- The next day, take the paper towel with the candied flowers on it out of the refrigerator. Let it sit out at room temperature in a warm part of your home for another 24 hours.
- Snip off the stems and discard them. Then, transfer the candied violets to an airtight container and store them at room temperature. Use within 2 months.
Culinary lavender is a lavender variety that we can eat and cook. It is a mint family member, and it is best with rosemary, thyme, fennel, oregano, and savory. These flowering plants have a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. You can add the flowers to salads, and it can be a substitute for rosemary. It contains vitamins A, C, and E as well as anti-oxidants.
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has the sweetest fragrance and the most commonly used in cooking among the culinary lavender varieties. When using lavender in your cooking, a little precaution, d not add too much of these in your recipe. Adding too much can make your dish bitter because of the strong flavor these flowers have. Just a little would be enough.
Lavender Chocolate Truffles
Recipe from: Tasha’s Artisan Foods
- 200 grams Coconut Cream (or regular cream – alternative)
- 2 tbsp. Dried Lavender
- 400 grams Dairy free chocolate or Dark chocolate (70%) chips room temperature
- 100 grams Dairy free chocolate or Dark chocolate (70%) chips melted, for coating
- Combine the coconut cream and dried lavender in a small saucepan. On low heat, bring to a gentle simmer. Take off the heat immediately and let the mixture cool for 10-15 minutes (to infuse the lavender in the cream).
- Strain the lavender cream mixture. Make sure you get the last bit of cream out of the lavender.
- Add the warm cream to 400gms of chocolate chips in a medium-size bowl. Gently stir till all chocolate is melted and is smooth and shiny.
- Transfer to a shallow bowl and refrigerate for 30-40 minutes. Using a small cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop out small balls and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
- Roll into smooth balls and refrigerate again for a few minutes. Dip into melted chocolate and refrigerate for a couple of hours till completely set.
- Keep refrigerated until served.
Another flower that we can cook is daylilies. You can find these flowers in Chinese cuisine and a staple in Asian markets as gum jum sold either fresh or dried. Every part of this flowering plant is edible, from its young shoots to its tubers, which taste like potatoes; its petals can be added to salads and fry the buds like fritters. The flower is named daylily since it can only last for a day; they bloom in the morning and wilt in the evening. But, they produce many blooms and often bloom for weeks.
Daylilies have a slightly aromatic flavor, and the buds taste like asparagus and green peas. Tiger lilies or any commercial lily varieties are not the same as daylilies so, make sure to identify them correctly before using them. It is a good idea, especially if it is your first time, to start eating in a small amount to make sure you don’t get allergies or an upset stomach.
Recipe from: PBS
- 1 cup unbleached white flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup ice cold hard apple cider (or bubbly drink of your choice such as beer or soda water)
- 2 to 3 cups grapeseed oil for frying
- 1 to 2 pounds of fresh daylily buds
- For the batter: In a small to a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together until fully mixed. Then, add 1 cup of cold apple cider (be sure it’s ice-cold as this will help your batter crisp up nicely) and gently whisk, being careful not to over-mix. A few lumps in the batter are ok and preferable to an over-mixed batter as you don’t want the gluten to develop.
- In a small heavy skillet or saucepan, heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat. The oil should be just a little more than an inch deep and should reach a temperature of about 350 F to 375 F. To test if your oil is at the right temperature, drop a bit of the batter into the oil. The oil is ready if it starts to sizzle and bubble right away.
- Grab your daylily buds by the stem and dip each one into the batter. (It’s ok for the green stem to stick out of the batter, it will fry up and be delicious to eat as well.) Drop each battered bud into the oil carefully to avoid splashing, and allow it to fry for about 1 minute or until crisp and golden, then flip it on the other side using tongs and fry it for about another minute.
- Remove the fritter from the oil and place it on a sheet of paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Then, sprinkle with good salt or your favorite dipping sauce. And, eat warm.
NOTE: Do not confuse tiger lilies or commercial lily varieties with daylilies. Tiger lilies or commercial lilies can be toxic so, make sure to properly identify them before eating them or using them for cooking.
Hibiscus or rose mallow is a flowering plant of the mallow family that is native to warm-temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions. All parts of this flower are edible, like the calyx, leaves, and flowers.
You can use the calyxes to make Hibiscus tea, sauces, or jams. It has a tangy flavor and rich in vitamin C. The leaves have a tangy flavor as well, and you can make them to teas. And, the flowers can be added to salads or cook into a dish. Eating the flowers has health benefits such as good anti-inflammatory, improves blood circulation, and easing constipation.
As usual, make sure to correctly identify the edible hibiscus from the non-edible before using them for cooking. Some of these edible varieties are Jamaican sorrel and Cranberry hibiscus.
Tacos de Jamaica (Vegan Hibiscus Tacos)
Recipe from: All Recipes
- 8 ounces dried hibiscus flowers
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Ingredients (Salsa Verde)
- 10 fresh tomatillos, husks removed
- 1 avocado – peeled, pitted, and diced
- 1/4 onion, chopped
- 2 serrano peppers
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- salt to taste
- 18 corn tortillas
- 2 slices fresh pineapple, chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- Rinse hibiscus very well to remove all the dust. And place clean hibiscus in a pot over medium heat, cover with water, and boil for 10 minutes. Then, remove hibiscus from heat and allow to steep for at least 2 hours or until hibiscus is very soft. Drain well.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook 1 onion and 2 cloves garlic until soft and translucent (about 2 minutes). Stir in drained hibiscus and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until hibiscus turns a deep red color.
- Combine tomatillos, avocado, 1/4 onion, serrano peppers, 1 clove garlic, and 2 tablespoons cilantro then, blend until smooth. Season salsa with salt.
- Warm corn tortillas in a skillet. Divide hibiscus mixture amongst tortillas and top with pineapple, onion, and cilantro. Serve with salsa verde and lime.
Many flowering plants are edible; however, be cautious when using these flowers in your dish. Use only those edible varieties, and do not forget to use a reference book about plants if you are not sure. Do not overuse or overeat since; overeating can be harmful to your body.
To know more edible flowers, you can refer to Edible Flowers That Are Best Commonly Grown in Gardens