Sprinkle a few flower petals in a salad, over a dish of ice cream or artfully place a sprig on the side of a plate or on an open faced sandwich and an otherwise ho-hum offering becomes instantly swoon worthy.
But what petals are safe to pick? We all hope our dinner events are memorable, but not because a fleet of ambulances had to arrive to pick our guests up off the floor!
Here are twenty flowers you can safely add to your menu.
Remember to always choose flowers that are chemical free and be sure you know exactly what you are harvesting to avoid a toxic mix up. If in doubt, leave it out!
- Agastache – Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum commonly known as licorice mint for its licorice scented spikes of purple blooms. Sprinkle a few purple petals to add a licorice twist to meals or desserts.
2. Basil Ocimum basilicum is an annual. Once it produces flowers its days are numbered, so harvest the leaves often to prevent blossoming for as long as possible. However, once blooms do appear, all is not lost. Just move your culinary affections from the leaves to the flowers. Add them as a tasty garnish to all your tomato sauces and pasta dishes.
3. Bergamot Monarda fistulosa is the herb that gives Earl Grey tea its tantalizing notes. Petals from its blossoms can lend the same tune to pastries, salads and summer drinks…and, of course, to that after dinner herbal tea!
4. Borage Borage Officinalis blooms are beautiful with a pleasant taste similar to cucumbers. Try freezing them in ice cubes for adding to drinks, tossing in a salad or simply adding to the side of a dessert or entrée. Always beautiful and never overwhelming.
5. Calendula Calendula officinalis petals, like most yellow edible blossoms, pack a bit of a bitter zing, but if used lightly can be a very welcome addition to salads. Its natural pigment will lend a sun soaked golden hue to soups or stews. The color is similar to saffron but without the heady cost.
6. Chives Allium schoenoprasum this herb known for its mild onion flavored greens also produces pretty balls of purple petals. These blooms can be used whole to provide a pleasant onion flavor and gorgeous garnish to salads, egg dishes and other entrées.
7. Clover has a sweet honey flavor. When I was growing up on a farm we used to pluck the flower spikes from a ball of red clover as we walked through the pasture and sip on the ends, delighting in the sweet nectar. Leave the blossoms whole or pull off the spikes and sprinkle in salads.
8. Cornflower Centaurea cyanus tastes of sugar and spice and everything nice. A bit of clove, a bit of honey and a lot of beauty in every skyblue petal. Add to salads or garnish plates and drinks with an entire blossom.
9. Dandelion Taraxacum officinale Young buds can be used whole in salads or the open petals can bring a dash of sunshine to any dish. And they are shockingly good for you. The young leaves are delicious too. For everything dandelions can do for your health please visit our post What Are Dandelions Good For? Absolutely Everything!
10. Dianthus Dianthus caryophyllus has an intoxicating clove-like scent that also appears in its taste. Clip the petals off above the white ends to avoid bitterness. The flavor lends itself beautifully to desserts. Use fresh as a side garnish or sprinkle as a topping. Available in assorted colors.
11. Fuchsia Most fuchsias you buy at a nursery will have been treated with chemicals but if you have one you started yourself or perhaps were gifted with by an organic friend or neighbour, munch away! The taste is a bit acidic but they are so beautiful you will want to garnish everything you serve with these beauties. They look like fancy cake decorations and can be used as such. Have them on your cake and eat them too.
12. Gladiolus Remove the anthers and the center of the blossom before adding the blooms as a glamorous addition to your salads or sandwiches. Has a mild, lettuce-like flavor. The blooms are big enough you can use them in the same way you would crackers or pita bread. Spread some cheese dip on the blooms and they will taste as fabulous as they look.
13. Johnny Jump Up Viola tricolor These are my favorite additions to salads and desserts. Delicate and lively, with a cheerful little face that will bring a smile to even your grumpiest guest. The light wintergreen taste is inconsequential compared to its joyful appearance.
14. Lilac Unlike the aforementioned Johnny Jump Up the lilac can quickly overwhelm a dish both with its scent and flavor. A little goes a very, very, long way. Add to a summer punch bowl or sprinkle a few petals on your spring salad.
15. Marigold Tagetes tenuifolia is the culinary choice among marigolds. Its sunny appearance is complimented by a citrus flavor that works well in both drinks and salads…particularily fruit salads. The French marigold Tagetes patula and the large African marigold Tagetes erecta are also edible, but not very tasty. They are best used strictly for their ornamental and pest controlling attributes. For eating purposes always look for the Latin name Tagetes tenuifolia on the plant label or seed package.
16. Nasturtium These colorful blooms add a pleasant peppery punch to salads. The blossoms are large enough to stuff with a cream cheese filling for an unexpected summertime snack for unexpected guests.
17. Pansy The Johnny Jump Up’s much larger cousin! Use the two together for a stunning juxtaposition. Like the Johnny Jump Up the pansy tastes slightly of wintergreen but overall has little flavor. Its value is in its appearance.
18. Rose rosa spp. Rose petals can be used in every dish imaginable. Fold them into muffin batter, sprinkle on ice cream or make rose jelly for your morning toast. How decadent is that? A note of caution! Never eat petals from roses you buy at a florist as they will be saturated with chemicals.
19. Squash If you’re trying to grow a record busting pumpkin or even a fairly large one, then you probably know this trick. Allow only two or three blossoms to set fruit and then remove the rest so all the plant’s energy can be devoted to just a few pumpkins for maximum benefit. But hang on to those blossoms! Blooms from all squash are fully edible and pack a flavorful punch. Fry them up in egg dishes or stuff with soft cheese and herb mixtures for a delicious treat.
20. Sunflower These cheerful flowers are grown for their seeds and all around uplifting character, but their petals are edible too. They add a sophisticated bitterness to egg dishes, soups and salads. If you can stand to make the sacrifice, the buds can be harvested before the flowers open and fried up in butter or olive oil for a dish reminiscent of artichokes. It’s worth planting a few extras for this application alone.