Written by Jahla Seppanen
Has there ever been a prettier, more Insta-worthy food trend than edible flowers? And now that summer is in full bloom, we’re turning to these power petals for a nutrient punch with some aesthetic flair.
If you’re new to using blossoms for culinary purposes, you can get inspired with edible flower dishes from the Instagram account, @the_sunkissed_kitchen, curated by vegan food stylist Ami Shoesmith.
“Cornflowers and pansies are my favorite to use because they add color, but not too much flavor,” says Shoesmith. “Chive flowers and lemon myrtle flowers are great when it comes to savory dishes—I use lemon myrtle in my salad dressings, and chive flowers taste like a mild version of onion, but are beautiful little purple flowers that look like pom-poms.” Pansies and violets, she adds, can be topped on any dish. Start with violas or cornflowers, which have a mild flavor, while “the more flavorsome varieties are nasturtium and chrysanthemums.”
Side note: always ask your grocer how to prepare edible flowers, either removing the bitter white base of the petals or the spines for safety purposes. Also, some flowers are highly toxic so only use specified edible blooms.
Originally used by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese for medicinal and nutritional purposes, experts suggest some flowers have vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with 10 times the power of regular lettuce and other fruits and vegetables. “Nasturtiums pack 10 times the vitamin C of regular lettuce, while pumpkin flowers have vitamin A and a little bit of iron,” says Lauri Wright, Director of the Clinical Nutrition Doctorate Program of University of North Florida. “Rose petals are rich in vitamin E, and chrysanthemums contain potassium as well as antioxidants.” Wright also tosses edible flowers into her salads, teas, and desserts for “a more alluring appearance and extra nutrition.”
A 2016 study in the International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research verified pigments of certain flowers, particularly geraniums, are sources of safe, natural antioxidants, important for anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity, contributing to the prevention of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders. Another study from 2012 verified edible flowers’ powerful antioxidant capacity, adding that the flowers tested contained a higher content of mineral elements over many fruits or vegetables, contributing to optimal health function ranging from improved nerve and muscle action to maintaining healthy bones and teeth.
Which Blooms to Choose?
The North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences suggests adding these flowers on to your meals.
- Daisy – White, pink, or purple, both the petals and yellow center of daisies can be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches.
- Dandelion – Not just for teas, the younger the dandelion the sweeter it will taste. Use in salads and jams.
- Fennel – Licorice-flavored and sweet, use in fish and egg dishes.
- Pansy – Cake decorations or on top of loaded breakfast breads, you can eat the whole flower.
- Rose – Petals can be used in syrups, jellies, and butters, on ice creams and even summer punch! Remove the white base of the petal, which is highly bitter.
Cathy Wilkinson Barash, expert on edible flower recipes and author of Edible Flowers from Garden to Palate, lists her 10 commandments to safely add edible flowers to your plate.
1. Eat only those flowers you can positively identify as safe and edible.
2. Do not assume restaurants and caterers know which flowers are edible. Just because it’s on your plate does not mean it is edible.
3. Eat only those flowers that have been grown organically.
4. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, garden centers, or public gardens.
5. Eat only the petals of flowers. Always remove and discard the pistils and stamens before eating.
6. Do not eat flowers picked from the side of heavily trafficked roads.
7. Eat only the flowers of the recommended plants; other parts may be toxic or inedible, even though the flower may be delicious.
8. Do not eat flowers if you have hay fever, asthma, or allergies, as the pollen may cause a reaction.
9. Gradually introduce flowers into your diet, one at a time and in small quantities.
10. Not all sweet-smelling flowers are edible; some are poisonous.