Raw or cooked, flowers are blooming on our plates. Nothing new here. Flowers have been used for centuries, first for their medicinal values, then for their wide range of aromas and their burst of colour. Careful, however, not all flowers can be eaten. Follow our edible flowers guide to make sure you pick the right ones.
Where Can I Buy Edible Flowers?
It might sound stupid, but don’t go to your favorite florist to buy your (edible) flowers. Flowers are sprayed with pesticides and many chemicals to look beautiful and last longer. They look gorgeous in a vase but can be poison on your plate. Don’t even think for a second to use the flowers of your favorite orchid either!
Local farmers’ markets are a great place to start. You might find a larger selection of flowers than at your grocery store. You will be able to talk to the vendor, discuss how the flowers are grown, and how to use them.
The next best place is the produce section (again not the florist section!) of your grocery store. Look in the bio section as well or in your organic store.
If you still can’t find any edible flowers, search online. In the US, MarxFoods is a good choice. In the UK, Maddocks Farm Organics has a large selection of flowers to use in cooking. In France, Marius Auda offers a wide range of organic flowers.
For the outdoor enthusiasts, you can pick some flowers in the wild as long as you are far enough away from any roads and towns to avoid pollution and chemicals. You also have to know what you are picking! Getting a book would be a good idea to start.
Which Flowers Can I Eat and How?
Many flowers are used in teas. How lovely and fragrant is a cup of rose bud tea! Many of them can be used in cooking. The variety of flavors is so wide that adding them to your dishes can transform them from dull to fabulous. So experiment with these bucolic splendors!
- The mimosa flower has an extremely aromatic flavor. Its golden yellow color lights up any dish. You can find mimosa oil and add a few mimosa flavors to your plate for a delicate springtime touch.
- The delicate pansy and viola flowers come in many spectacular colors and can be used in many ways: terrific on cheesecakes and desserts, for a hint of tangyness in salads, and exquisitely floating on drinks.
- Rose petals have a sweet flavor and a strong fragrance, you can use them to decorate many dishes and drinks, or crystillized to decorate a cake.
- The delicate, bright blue borage flowers have a refreshing cucumber taste and are brilliant served with oysters.
- Violets are not only beautiful. They have a strong flavor and are delicious in jam or bonbons.
- The bean and fava bean flowers add a fresh bean flavor and vibrant colors to your meat dish or salad. Pea flowers are also a nice choice.
- Add lavender flowers to a strawberry salad, let it infuse and you will surprise and delight your guests.
- Basil blossom has an amazing fresh basil fragrance, perfect in cocktails, pastas, or to garnish your desserts. Many herbs blossoms can be used, like fennel, dill, cilantro, mint, or rosemary.
- The nutty flavor of arugula blossoms goes beautifully together with fresh salads, soups, and cheeses.
- Stuffed with cheese and herbs or meat, dipped in batter then fried or baked, large squash blossoms become a delicious appetizer. The bright yellow color and their sweet zucchini flavor are a wonderful addition to a risotto, pasta, or a fresh salad.
- Other edible flowers are orchids, snapdragon, marigolds, firestix, calendulas, mums, nasturtiums, dianthus, jasmine, hibiscus, dahlia, and daisies.
Caution: Stay away from cyclamen, daffodil, snowdrop, honeysuckle, lilly of the valley, iris, and oleander. They are poisonous.
Some Words from the Chefs and More
Chefs are using this beautiful ingredient in many forms: petals, buds, whole, or stems. Chosen for their color, scent, or flavor, edible flowers have become their secret weapon to bring on that wow factor everyone is looking for.
Chef Jean-François Rouquette is one of the pioneers in the use of flowers in fine dining in France. One of his menus is called the Power of Flower. He takes avantage of the force of flowers in his fine and inventive cuisine at the Michelin Star restaurant Pur’ of the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme. Inspired by his many travels and his childhood, he uses rose water, nasturtium flowers, hibiscus, violet, and ylang-ylang . His secret is simple: know the flowers, their texture and taste, and learn how to marry them with other ingredients, just like you would with spices. And Experiment.
Restaurant Pur’, 5 rue de la Paix, Paris, 75002, France
A former gunpowder factory, Restaurant De Kruidfabriek or Spice Factory in the Netherlands combines the freshness and strength of locally grown herbs with spices and local products in its kitchen to create a unique cuisine. They have their own garden and greenhouse which allows them to serve the best and freshest ingredients.
De Kruidfabriek by LUTE – De Oude Molen 5, 1184 VW Amstelveen, the Netherlands
In The Hague, Michelin star Restaurant Calla’s puts emphasis on quality, purity, and freshness of the ingredient to create classical dishes in the purest of French tradition with a creative twist. Most of the ingredients come from the biodynamic herb and vegetable garden the restaurant owns in the dunes of Wassenaar.
Restaurant Calla’s, Laan van Roos en Doom 51a, 2514 BC Den Haag, the Netherlands
In the heart of the Coasta Brava in Spain, the Restaurant Calendula offers a distinctive and creative cuisine, using the local products and a wide variety of wild herbs, roots, and flowers, found in the region of Girona. Its Chef, Iolanda Bustos, has a gift for enhancing the natural flavours of raw ingredients she gathers near by, creating exciting and artfully presented dishes. Cooking with flowers has become her expertise and she is building quite a reputation at it. She feels she is on a mission to get people to learn more about flowers in food.
C/ nou, 2, 17214 Regencos (Girona) – Empordà – Spain
Lauren McDuffie from the inspirational Food blog Harvest and Honey tells us how she uses flowers in her kitchen, “I love incorporating edible flowers into my recipes in the spring and summer months because it is such a beautiful and simple way to add charm to your food. I use wildflowers in salads and frozen in ice cubes for lovely cocktails or punches. I also like to decorate cakes with them and I often flavor both sweet and savory dishes with dried flowers such as rose, lavender, and chamomile.”
Have you ever eaten edible flowers before ? Are you ready to pretty up your food? Let us know.