A good cook knows when and what the best herbs and spices are to add to any dish to make it better. A GREAT cook knows what flowers to use. Flowers can be used as garnish, in a salad, stuffed, in stir-fry dishes, candied, added to beverages, jams, and butters. If you want to add taste, color, and fragrance to a meal, try adding flowers!
Now, to be clear, not ALL flowers are edible. Some can make you sick with just a taste. For a list of flowers NOT to use, check out the Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms site. But for a list of flowers you can cook with, see the list below!
Begonia: the leaves, flowers and stems are edible and have a citrus flavor. Use these in salads and as garnish. Don’t eat these, though, if you have problems with gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism.
Marigolds: their taste resembles that of saffron and can range from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Use them in soups, pasta, rice dishes, herb butters, and salads.
Carnations: the petals are sweet and the base bitter. They can be seeped in wine, candy, or as decoration.
Chrysanthemums: petals are tangy and bitter and ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange. Use them in salads (after blanching first) or in a vinegar. Don’t use the base, only the petals.
Dame’s Rocket: the petals are deep lavender, but can also be pink or white. This plant is
part of the mustard family and can be added into salads, but can be fairly bitter.
Dandelions: Flowers are sweetest when picked young and have a honey-like flavor. The buds are more flavorful than the flowers, so pick them when they are close to the ground and tightly bunched in the center. Make them into wine, eat steamed, or throw them in a salad.
Day Lilies: slightly sweet with a mild vegetable flavor. Use them in desserts by cutting the petals away from the bitter white base or stuff them in squash blossoms. Eat in moderation because they may act as a diuretic or laxative.
So next time you’re in the kitchen and want to use something other than salt and pepper, try using small amounts of flowers! For more information about edible flowers, see What’s Cooking America‘s website or our Facebook page!