Edible flowers have been used in food for thousands of years. Indeed, they were used by the Ancient Romans, Greek and Chinese in a number of dishes. Today, flowers are still used in traditional cooking: Indian food sometimes includes rose petals and Italian food has been known to contain squash blossoms. Other dishes can also be prepared with flowers. They may be used fresh or preserved, made into drinks, used to flavour vinegars, or candied by those with a sweet tooth. There is a huge range of flower flavours available: From spicy to fragrant there is something for everyone.
Let’s look some of the most common edible flowers.
From the strong taste of garlic flowers to the more delicate taste of leek flowers, you are spoilt for choice with the allium family.
Basil flowers come in purple and white and their flavour is a more delicate version of the basil leaf.
These famous flowers are golden and they have a spicy, peppery taste.
You get a wide variety of Angelica flowers, from delicate purple to white. They taste like liquorice.
- Bee balm
Try these red flowers in cocktails as they add a dash of colour and a refreshing zing with their minty taste.
Dandelion flowers are sweet and grassy in flavour. They are great in soups and are also good for your health.
- Anise hyssop
These flowers are white and have tiny buds that come in clusters. They have a liquorice flavour. Try putting them in salads.
These flowers come in a variety of colours and have a peppery flavour. They are great for garnish on soups and stews.
Dill flowers are yellow with delicate petals. They have a similar taste to the leaves.
Carnations come in a variety of colours, from white to orange, and, with their sweet flavour, they are great when candied.
These flowers also have a sweet flavour and are often used in tea. They look similar to garden daises.
Chervil flowers come in white and yellow and have delicate petals with subtle hints of anise.
Chicory’s bright blue flowers are slightly bitter and are great for pickling.
These flowers are as varied in colour as they are in taste, which ranges from pungent to peppery. However, you must be careful to ensure that you only use the petals.
The White cilantro flowers taste similar to the leaves. They are best eaten raw.
The citrus family blossoms are so sweet that they should only be used in small quantities so as to not overpower a dish.
These flowers come in a variety of colours, have a subtle liquorice flavour and are sweet. Try using them as garnish for desserts.
These flowers work well as a garnish as they come in a variety of bright hues. Also, their bland flavour can be counteracted by stuffing them.
Fennel’s delicate yellow flowers are liquorice flavoured and easy on the eye. Try using them in salads.
Pink and purple in colour fuchsia flowers are great for garnish. They have a tangy flavour.
Hibiscus flowers taste like cranberry and are used to make tea. Because their flavour is so strong they shouldn’t be used in large quantities.
Certain precautions must be taken when eating flowers. According to Melissa Breyer, you shouldn’t eat flowers from a nursery or florist as they may have been treated with harmful pesticides. Roadside flowers are a no-no as they may have been polluted by exhaust fumes.
You should also take care if you have pollen allergies. Make a point of eating flowers as soon as possible after you pick them. You can keep them fresh for up to 10 days by putting them in an airtight container and freezing them.
Only eat flowers if you are 100% sure that they are safe. If in doubt, leave them out (or find a good reference book or a knowledgeable chef).
Zara Jade Bosman lives in beautiful Cape Town. She loves nature and experiment in the kitchen, and is always looking for creative cooking tips, so who better to talk you through this list of edible flowers?