While most people wouldn’t think twice about a sprig of rosemary in a cocktail these days, some may react with confusion if a salad was adorned with lilies and lilacs.
In restaurants, edible flowers are most often used to add color to a dish, but can also be used to add an extra pop of flavor. Homecooking.com also suggests freezing flowers in ice cubes for parties, using them in flavored jellies or employing floral syrup in a sparkling cocktail. If you’re in Charleston, SC, stop by Cypress restaurant on East Bay Street for their signature Lavender Martini – a great example of edible flowers at their best!
The most important thing to remember about edible flowers though is ONLY EAT ORGANIC! Non-organic varieties could contain chemicals (and don’t really have the same aromatic quality), so check your local farmers market.
Dandelion: this common weed does not get the credit it deserves. The greens of the plant are packed with antioxidants and minerals containing a high level of potassium. Although the plant can be a bit bitter, for those who don’t mind (think Arugula), it can be a wonderful addition to any salad. To satisfy the sweeter taste buds, check out this recipe for Dandelion syrup.
Day Lily: this flower has a sweet taste and can be eaten raw. The tubers of the roots can be boiled and eaten like mini potatoes. Just remove the stalks and hairs and, of course, the dirt. The flower buds are a good source of Vitamin C and Carotene. Be careful! Lillis are deadly to kitty cats.
Hibiscus: the flowers can be eaten, but the best way to use hibiscus is to make an infused tea. Just soak ten or so flowers in hot water. Add lime for flavor and enjoy. Drinking it cold is just as delicious as hot, so for a nice summer day, put it on ice!
Honeysuckle: the base of the flower holds a sweet tasting nectar that can be eaten, and the entire flower makes a great addition to any spring or summer salad.
Lilac: the beautiful smelling lilac (you guessed it) tastes like it smells, but is delicate and not overwhelming. Lilac is best used as a garnish. For something different try mixing it in vanilla frozen yogurt for an interesting treat.
Calendula: this flower has been coined the “Poor Man’s Saffron.” Its flavor ranges from tangy to spicy with a bit of a peppery aftertaste. It’s a great complement to rice dishes, soups and pasta. The flower can also be used as a great herbal remedy.
Rose Hips: these circular buds have played an essential role in the Native American diet for a long time. Like the Day Lily, Rose Hips contain Vitamin C, and store well when dried properly. For a refreshing twist try making “Rosebud Ice Cubes.”
Squash Blossoms: the orange, yellow blossom found at the top of the squash can be cooked or eaten raw. Be careful, the flower perishes fast, and if you want to use them try to pick them right before you cook. Like Quesadillas? Like flowers in your Quesadillas? Try this quirky recipe.
Violets: the flowers, along with the heart-shaped leaves of the wild Violet, are edible. Both can be used to add color and complexity to salads. The flower is often used to make jellies and teas and can also be candied and used as a decorative garnish.
Carnations: as sweet as they are beautiful, Carnations can be steeped in wine or eaten plain. If you’re the baking type think about creating a beautiful design on top of a cake using these flowers or some of the others mentioned above.