Many flowers are edible and some are quite delicious. Fresh flowers can add texture, aroma and a bright, decorative appearance to many different kinds of foods. Of course you will want to choose only organically grown flowers if you are going to consume them, so avoid flowers from the garden center or from florists. Be certain that you know the correct botanical name of the flower as common names can be confusing. For example, while tuberous begonias are edible, other related begonias are not.
Avoid collecting flowers growing close to highways as they may have chemical contaminants.
The best time to harvest delicate edible flowers is in the early morning. The flowers lose flavor and wilt quickly if gathered in the heat of the day. You may also harvest in the evening after the plants recover from the heat of the day. Pick the stems of the plant along with the flower to keep them looking as good as possible until you prepare them.
Check carefully for insects and spritz the flowers with water from a spray bottle if necessary to clean them. You may also swish the flowers in cool water and immediately drain them on towels.
Flowers are best used soon after picking but can be laid on damp kitchen towels or paper towels and placed in a sealed container in the refrigerator until time for use. Many flowers will hold up well for up to three days if picked very fresh and stored in this manner.
In some cases only parts of a flower are considered edible. Calendula petals are quite delicious but the center of the flower is not used. Rose petals have a white base that tends to be bitter so that is usually trimmed away. Citrus blossom petals are the only part used of the flower.
Taste flowers before using them. Some pansies taste better than others. I find yellow and the darker reds and blue pansies generally taste better than other colors. Certain varieties of roses have more pleasant tasting petals.
Ideas for using edible flowers:
- Add flowers to your spring rolls or sushi.
- Add them to a gelatin mold.
- Freeze whole flowers or petals in ice cube trays or rings to add color to your favorite punch.
- Pick chive blossoms before fully open and add them to rice wine or white wine vinegar for an excellent addition to salad dressings.
- Add rose, chive or nasturtium blossoms to your scrambled eggs.
- Add jasmine flowers to your teapot for a divine flavor. Do not use the poisonous jessamine varieties!
Candied flowers are made by brushing on powdered egg whites mixed with water and then coating the flowers lightly with superfine sugar. Allow to dry on a cake rack, then store in a tightly sealed container until using. These are lovely for decorations on cakes or party trays.