There are quite a lot of uses of flowers in our daily lives aside from decors and landscapes. There are edible flowers that are often eaten in salads and are used as garnishes. The petals of some flowers can be dried and included in tea blends. Some are also used as decorations for cakes and sweets. Let us explore more about these edible flowers.
Short History of Edible Flowers
Flowers, as far as thousands of years ago, have been used not only for their medicinal properties but also for their taste and aesthetics in culinary. In ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, and even in China, some edible flowers have been often used in cooking. The first recorded mention of these flowers was in 140 B.C. The early Incas, Aztecs, and Hindus used flowers in their most essential rituals and their cooking.
Below are historical snippets mentioned in GardenGuides.com of the uses of flowers in ancient culinary.
- Romans used Calendula to infuse a similar golden color in their cooked dishes.
- Medieval monks also used Calendula in most of their pot soups; thus, they called this flower “pot marigold.” They also make use of wild pansy in their cooking.
- Medieval monks make sweet syrup from the petals of violet.
- Victorians candied the flowers of violet and borage to decorate cakes and desserts.
Things to Note When Eating Flowers
Please note the following precautions before you get excited and start harvesting flowers from your garden to serve in your next meal, please note the following precautions.
- Only eat flowers that you know can be eaten.
Do not just eat any flowers. If you are not sure if a flower is edible, consult a reference book on edible flowers and plants or check the Internet. Unfortunately, we cannot eat all flowers since some are poisonous.
- Only eat flowers that you have grown yourself.
It is best to eat flowers that you grow yourself since you can be sure that it is not treated with pesticides or other chemicals like florists or nurseries. Also, do not eat those you see by the roadside or those in public parks. The flowers may have been treated with pesticides, and roadside flowers are often polluted by car exhaust.
- Only eat the flower’s petals and discard the rest.
Make sure to eat only the petals of edible flowers. You should remove the pistils and stamens before eating the flowers.
- Keep flowers fresh.
Always keep edible flowers fresh. You can place them on moist paper towels and put them inside an airtight container, then refrigerate – lets flowers last for ten days. For limp flowers, you can revitalize them with ice water.
- Eat-in moderation.
Always remember to eat or use these edible flowers in moderation. Too much of everything is terrible. Even if edible flowers are organic and healthy, overeating may cause digestive complications.
List of Edible Flowers
Species: Onions (Allium cepa), garlic (Allium sativum), leeks (Allium porrum), chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Description: Commonly have slender grey-green leaves and have pom-pom-like flower heads.
These cultivated edible alliums are often used in cooking to add flavor to the food. You can use the leaves and flowers in salads or cooked as a flavoring with other vegetables in soups.
Bloom Description: Has disc-shaped or nearly round leaves and has brilliant orange (or red) or yellow flowers with long spurs behind them
An easily-grown annual native to Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. It was discovered by Spanish conquistadors and was brought to Spain in the 16th century. The seeds of this flower, when cured in vinegar, could be used like capers. At the same time, the leaves and flowers have a peppery flavor that is good in salads.
Bloom Description: The leaves are in an oblong-lanceolate shape. The flowers are bright yellow to a deep orange with a distinctive and robust scent. The flowers could be single or double.
Calendula is a perennial plant that grows up to 80 cm (31 in) tall. It was the ancient Romans who named the plant Calendula. They noticed that these flowers were blooming on the first day of every month. Calendula is a modern Latin diminutive of calendae that means “little calendar” or “little clock.” It originated in Southern Europe, Mediterranean areas, and parts of Asia. It is often used to flavor soups and stews known by its other name, Pot Marigold. The other variety, golden yellow blossoms, are used to add color to butter and cheese.
Blossom Description: The flowers are daisy-like with white petals circling a cone-shaped yellow center. The leaves of German Chamomile are fern-like and feathery with a light green shade. While the Roman Chamomile has finely divided parsley-like leaves. They are thicker and flatter compared to the German variety.
Chamomile is derived from the Greek word khamai, which means “on the ground” and melon, meaning “apple.” It is revered as one of the nine sacred herbs by the ancient Saxons, and the Egyptians valued this as a cure to malaria. The flower heads and leaves of both varieties are used medicinally and are edible. The bright yellow center of the flower has a mild apple-like taste, while the leaves have a bitter taste. You can make cordial and liqueurs out of Chamomile, and you can use it as toppings to apple crisp. The flowers of Chamomile can be infused with almond oil to use for salads or mixed the Chamomile infused almond oil with mayonnaise to flavor sandwiches. Or, add both leaves and flowers for a healthy salad. The flowers are also known for teas.
Blossom Description: Daylilies are not true lilies, although the flower’s shape is similar to lilies. Unlike lilies that grow from buds, Daylilies have a fibrous root system.
These are perennial plants with flowers that typically last about a day. It is native to Asia, primarily in eastern Asia, including China, Korea, and Japan. You can eat all parts of this plant; that is why it is cultivated as food crops in China and Japan. The flowers haves of green beans-like flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. You can add the full bloom flowers and leaves to salads. Just make sure to cut off the outer leaves and add or eat only the tender inner part. You can also dry the flowers and used them as a flavoring and thickener in soups.
The plant’s young shoots have a pleasantly sweet flavor, so they are mostly cooked like vegetables. Another part of the edible plant is the fibrous roots or tuberous roots (for some species). It has a nutty taste when eaten, either raw or cooked, and the flavor somewhat a blend of sweet corn and salsify.
Bloom Description: The flower has an open, daisy-like shape with tubular petals in shades of red, pink, purple, and white.
Bee balm is a flowering plant local to the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. And, the native Americans used this flower for medicinal purposes. The name Bee balm came from a popular salve derived from the flower’s resin and can be used to soothe bee stings. The flower’s smell is like that of a bergamot orange. It can be used as a colorful accent for salads, and the dried leaves that give off a lovely scent can be put in sachets and potpourri. You can also use brew the dried leaves as tea.
Bee balm leaves have a lemon-orange-mint flavor that can be used as an alternative to lemons for dishes that call for the citrus rind.
Bloom Description: It has vibrant star-shaped flowers that are hanging in downward facing clusters. Its flowers start pink then turn to true blue.
It is an annual herb local to the eastern Mediterranean region. And, it is cultivated in various parts of Europe, Great Britain, and North America. It is produced as a flower that is used for both medicinal and culinary uses. Both flowers and leaves are edible with a cucumber-like taste when eaten as fresh vegetables. Borage flowers have a sweet honey-like taste and are often used to decorate desserts and cocktails. It is often used in salads, soups especially in the recipe of Green Sauce in Frankfurt, Germany. And, in Italy, it is commonly used as a filling of the traditional ravioli pasta. Also, you can be dry these flowers.
Blossom Description: It has heart-shaped leaves with asymmetrical flowers. The flowers could be blue, yellow, white, and cream aside from violet.
Native to most central and eastern North America, it is common in lawns, gardens, sidewalk crack, and trailside. The new bloomed Violets may be used as garnishes to salads or used as stuffing for poultry and fish. The flowers of wood violet have a sweet taste that adds unique sweetness to desserts, fruit salads, and teas. And, is the main ingredient for candied Violets.
You can use the petals as fragrant in milk pudding and ice cream. The viola tricolor variety has a mild taste that you can use with sweet or savory food. An extract from Violets can be made into a syrup that can make violet scones and marshmallows.
Blossom Description: It has a large trumpet-shaped five petals. The colors can be white, pink, red, orange, peach and yellow, or purple.
The flower was given its botanical name in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus. The word “rosa-sinensis” is a Latin term that means “Rose of China,” although the flower is not related to real roses. Hibiscus is widely farmed in tropical and subtropical regions with flowers used as a garnish or added to salads and tender leaves and stalks. The flowers can also be stuffed and fried while you can pickle or boil the buds. If you plan to host a summer party, you can make a punch out of these flowers. A famous punch in Egypt and Sudan called Karkade is made out of Hibiscus flower.
Dry the petals, then steeped them in hot or cold water for tea or cold refreshment. The dried petals of Hibiscus release a tart, almost-cranberry-like flavor. Besides tea and refreshment, you could also make a sauce out of these flowers or infuse it with meringue. Use it as well to tenderize meat like beef or lamb.
Blossom Description: The plant produces lavender or lilac blue-colored flowers. They are tiny, tubular blossoms that grow in whorls of six or ten flowers along its square, angular stems and form a terminal spike.
It is native to Africa (eastern Africa), Asia (southwest Asia to southeast India), Europe, and Mediterranean regions. Over centuries, it is commonly used in traditional medicine, cosmetics, and culinary. The flowers have a sweet fragrance with lemon or citrus notes. Fresh or dried, you can use the flower buds, leaves, and stems in cooking. The buds can amplify both the sweet and savory flavors in dishes, while dried buds can be blended with black, green, or herbal teas. English lavender can also be paired well with chocolate for baked goods or desserts.
You can make a lavender syrup out of the flower and pair it with dried buds to make lavender scones and marshmallows. The leaves can be used as a replacement for rosemary or use together to flavor meat and vegetables. Also, one can make a tea out of dried leaves, and it has a milder taste compared with the teas made with the flower.
Blossom Description: The flower heads are yellow to orange in color and are a tightly packed mass of tiny florets.
It is native to Eurasia but has been introduced to North and South America, India, New Zealand, Australia, and other parts of the world where Europeans migrated. The flower’s name was derived from “dent de lion,” a French term that refers to the irregular and jagged margins of its lanced-shaped leaves. And, you can eat the whole part of the plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots. The flowers have a sweet taste with notes of honey, while the leaves are earthy, nutty, and pleasantly bitter. You can pair the leaves with bacon, goat cheese, nuts, and lemon to complement the taste. These flowers have been part of Albanian, Slovenian, Chinese, Greek, and Korean cuisine.
You can toast it to salads and make wine out of these flowers’ petals. Or, you can dip the flowers in a batter and fry them to make Dandelion fritters. Then, roast and ground the roots to make a coffee – a caffeine-free substitute for regular coffee.
Flowering plants are not only something you can use to beautify your surroundings or something you can give as a present on special occasions. Or you can use these flowers for medicinal purposes. There are species of flowering plants that can be consumed as food or used as a flavoring; however, before eating any flowers, check with a knowledgeable person or consult a reference to ensure that what you eat is safe.
For some easy recipes for some of these edible flowers, you can check Cooking with Edible Flowers – 5 Easy Recipes.