Before you run down to the nearest park, pull the first colorful blossomy thing and throw it into your morning eggs, let’s take a few steps back to get you acquainted with edible flowers.
Yes, some flowers can be ingested. No, not all flowers should be ingested.
This quick guide will give you a handful of easy-to-find safe flowers that will not only make your next dish more colorful and visually appealing but also make it taste better, too. In the past, edible flowers were used primarily for decoration, but recently cooks have managed to incorporate the pistils into signature dishes that celebrate the abundance of flowers.
Here are five edible flowers to get you started. Note: If buying flowers from a florist, ask if they can be used for culinary purposes since many flowers sold commercially contain harsh pesticides that were not mean to be eaten.
1 | Zucchini squash blossom
In Mexican cuisine, stir-fried squash blossoms are typically used to fill quesadillas and to thicken soups. They are a bright, almost-neon yellow and tend to shrivel quite a bit when cooked, adding a bit of earthy color to whatever it touches.
2 | Marigold
The marigold flower—known as cempazuchitl in Spanish—is the official flower of Día de Muertos. Though, chefs and home cooks have discovered other dishes that benefit from being garnished with it like salads, and risottos.
Marigolds grow in tight yellow bunches on green leafy stems and flourish in most areas of California. They have a bitter taste that compliments particularly sweet or salty dishes. Remember, balance and composition of flavors is everything!
3 | Rose
Turns out, roses are good for more than bloody thumbs, quick whiffs, and getting husbands out of the doghouse. Roses are, in fact, completely edible. Roses are actually quite tasty and have been found being added to jams, marmalades, salads, and desserts. Their flavor is a floral one.
4 | Violet
The flower made famous in American film culture by an ambitious little girl with a penchant for flavored gum in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is actually completely edible. Violets also are believed to have anti-inflammatory characteristics that have caused them to be used as an ingredient in cough drops. In addition, it lends its unmistakable rich, purple color to food and drinks, so chefs and bartenders love it too.
5 | Sunflower
First it was sunflower seeds. Then, it was sunflower oil. Now, people are eating the blossoms themselves. Try fresh sunflower petals in salads, stir-frys, or just as a pretty garnish in entrees and desserts.