Unknown to many of us, there are plenty of flowers growing right in our yards which can be added to a varieties of recipes for flavour, colour and even health benefits. The addition of flowers to food is said to have begun with the ancient Romans where they used whole flowers and petals to decorate banquet spreads.
Most edible flowers can be grown from seeds and many of them can be propagated through cuttings. A lot of them are just wildflowers and you can easily pick them during an evening stroll!
Edible flowers bring out bold flavours and enhance our senses when added to the right recipe.
Before we can get into the different types of flowers, here are 4 tips are experts have put together to get the best results when using them in food.
1. Try to get your edible flowers from organic gardens which are pesticide free. Just to be safe, it’s advisable to rinse them well before consumption.
2. They are best harvested in the morning. Their petals are firm and the colour is in its peak in the early hours of the day.
3. Harvest flowers when they are in full bloom and just before wilting for maximum freshness and flavour enhancement.
4. Keep in mind that flowers have a wide range of flavours from peppery and spicy to herbal or sweet and can have strong fragrances. Therefore carefully chose the kind of flower which best enhances the recipe’s taste.
Here are some of our top choices of flowers you can consider adding to your favourite dishes.
Roses are in the same plant family as strawberries and apples. Known as the ‘Queen of Flowers’ many varieties have edible petals and can be added to a number of dishes as a garnish. Their leaves are used to make tea and rose hips can also be consumed as they are known to be full of anti-oxidants. The rose buds are the part of the plant which packs the most flavour and is often dried for use in many dishes and tea.
The intensity of the rose petal’s flavour not only depends on the variety, but also the colour and type of soil it was grown in.
This popular plant has more parts than just the bright flaming flower that’s edible. It’s leaves gives a delicious peppery-spicy flavour and the seeds can be eaten as well. Nasturtiums can be grown in containers and are available trailing and upright varieties. They can be grown from seedlings indoors and once the baby plant is ready, it can be transplanted to your garden or balcony in an area with full sun.
These plants being a member of the onion family have purple flowers and foliage with a mild ‘oniony’ taste. They are great companion plants to many others in the garden as their scent keeps away pests and help to attract beneficial pollinators. The flowers along with a part of the foliage are used in recipes instead of scallions and green onions. Chives are perennial and grow well in full sun as well as partial shade.
Although some of us find this plant to be a weed that never goes away, dandelions are a great source of calcium, vitamins, and have anti-oxidant properties. They are packed with nutrients and have been used to make herbal medicines for centuries. Every part of the plant is edible – the leaves, the crowns, the flowers, and even the roots. The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw, thrown into a salad or soup, or even batter fried. The flowers can even be used to make syrup or wine. The roots are most commonly used to make tea, but they can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute!
Another common wildflower, the violet contains high amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A in both its flowers and leaves. With a sweet floral taste, this plant is be used to make syrups, teas, and in baked desserts. Flowers are more commonly added to salads and soups as garnish. The violets in salads add colour and crunch which are similar to capers.
Note: African violets are completely different from these wildflowers and are not edible!
Borages are herbal plants with blue star shaped flowers. Their scent and taste is often considered to be similar to cucumbers. The miniature lily-pad leaves pack a peppery taste, and the seeds can be pickled like capers. Borage flowers make the perfect herbal additions to alcohol based drinks like gin and vodka. Some people even add them to glasses of w