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Tulips...for lunch?

Edible flowers can make your dinner vibrant — and tasty too

May 13, 2019
By BIZ REYNOLDS - GRIT Magazine , Farm News



Starving for that delicious-looking appetizer, you reach for those crispy little nuggets of deep-fried mushrooms, but What the hay? Golden and delectable, those morsels turn out to be tasty little dandelion flower buds that have been fried up soft, tender, and reminiscent of wild morel mushrooms. The colorful salad is sprinkled with violets, nasturtiums, and calendula petals. Not only that, the ice cream is flavored with pastel specks of lavender-colored well lavender. The ruby-jeweled jelly is created from summer rose petals. And even the tuna salad bowl is edible: It's a hibiscus blossom.

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Flowers and leaves from fresh chives are great in dishes and as garnishes.

From the finest restaurants to the humblest farm kitchen, more and more cooks are finding that adding flowers to an ever-increasing number of menu items adds color, excitement, flavor, and a touch of enticement-and maybe even some romance.

For ages, bakers have been making candied violets to decorate party cakes. Nasturtiums look pretty sprinkled on a salad. Diners now are discovering that flowers have more than visual appeal-they also have flavor. Specific flowers are mingling pleasantly with a variety of entrees, salads, and desserts-as one of the ingredients, no longer merely a pretty decoration.

Flowers are most commonly used fresh or as garnishes. When cooked, they frequently wilt and lose their bright colors (though cauliflower and broccoli are actually "flowers," too). Topping cakes with bright pansies, garnishing soups with chive flowers, or using flowers such as tulips or daylilies as bowls to hold tuna salad or cottage cheese are all good ways to experiment with blooms fresh from your garden.

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Of course, as with any other foods you use, you will want to add flowers to your meal carefully. Roadside flowers are often polluted with vehicle exhaust residues, roadway hydrocarbon runoff, dust, and trash. Some flowers do not taste good, and some are actually toxic, such as potato, foxglove, and sweet pea. Flowers served at the table should be grown organically, with no residual pesticides clinging to the petals.

The best-tasting flowers are usually the most fragrant; the more fragrant the flower, the stronger the flavor. So use them with discretion. Although some marigolds are tasty, some taste terrible. It is wise to experiment first and not try out new ideas on unsuspecting guests. Always taste before you cook. A large number of garden flowers are edible, but as with any other plants-tame or wild-before you start eating them willy-nilly, you must learn the edibility rules.

Most popular posies

These top-choice flowers taste good, are versatile in cooking, and are commonly and easily grown in gardens everywhere.

Other posy possibilities

Other flowers can be added to vinegars, teas, sorbets, custards, butters, soups, salads, sauces, and of course, used for decoration purposes, too.

Sweet-tasting flowers include red clover, dandelion, yucca, pineapple sage, and elderberry.

Floral-flavored flowers include pea, apple, lilac, dianthus, honeysuckle, pineapple guava, and scented geranium. Lavender and violet flowers give a perfumed flavor to food.

Citrusy/tangy-flavored flowers include lemon, orange, and tuberous begonia flowers, while Johnny jump-ups and bee balm (Monarda) have a minty flavor. Redbud, tulip, and runner beans have a beanlike flavor. Oniony flowers include society garlic, garlic chives, and nodding onion.

For a biting, spicy flavor try arugula, mustard, radish, broccoli, and winter and summer savory. A bitter tang can be had by trying chicory, English daisy, chrysanthemum, safflower, and sunflower. And chamomile, linden, and jasmine are used in beverages.

Other edible flowers include the herbs-the flower has the same flavor as the leaf but is less intense: borage, rosemary, basil, dill, oregano, thyme, coriander, and hyssop.

Hibiscus, daylily flowers, and squash blossoms make dainty serving dishes for salads. Rose, apple petals, mustard, okra, and red clover are also edible, along with dainty primrose, freesias, and forget-me-nots. Experts also recommend cornflowers, snapdragons, bachelor buttons, marguerite daisies, and flowering maple blossoms.

Making crystallized flowers

Performing this activity-the sealing of delicate blossoms in a shell of sugar that lets them dry without fading or decaying-was especially popular in 17th- and 18th-century Europe. Johnny jump-ups-with their smooth, flat petals-scented geraniums, pansies, and roses work best. The egg white and sugar act as a preservative, causing the color and shape to last for months or possibly up to a year if stored properly. Store in a sealed jar, away from light and humidity.

1 egg white


Superfine sugar

Beat egg white in a bowl until foamy.

Dip flowers, one at a time, into egg white (or apply a thin, even coat with a small paintbrush, if preferred), making sure to coat every part of the petals.

Shake flower gently to remove excess egg white.

Sprinkle superfine sugar over petals, covering egg white completely. (Coat the backs, too-any area not covered by egg white and sugar will rot.)

Place flowers on wax paper-lined baking sheet. Let dry and harden in cool area with low humidity. When dry, flowers will be crisp and fairly easy to move. Larger flowers such as pansies must be resituated while drying so moisture doesn't collect under them.

Store in airtight container at room temperature. Use as decorations on cakes, chocolates, etc.

Discover more ways to cook from your garden at

Excerpted from Grit. To read more articles from Grit, please visit, or call 800-803-7096. Copyright 2019 by Ogden Publications Inc.



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