A quick bit of history:
The use of edible flowers in our diets and as part of cooking has been around for many centuries. Chinese cooks were experimenting with edible flowers as far back at 3,000 B.C. The Romans used violets and roses in their food as well as lavender in sauces and the ancient Greeks used violet petals in their wine. The flower-obsessed Victorians were also big fans of edible flowers, both native species and new ones brought back from plant hunting expeditions. A practice that is still going strong today, with many restaurants using flowers to create a unique flavour and appearance.
Preparing edible flowers – best practice:
Before you start adding edible flowers to your dishes it’s a good idea to follow some of the following practices:
- Introduce flowers to your diet gradually. Try small quantities at first rather than larger ones as you may not like the taste.
- Edible flowers are always best when picked fresh from the garden. They’ll taste even better if you can pick them early in the morning; this keeps the colours and flavours more intense and before the midday sun dries them out.
- Wash and dry them gently by dipping them in a bowl of water and gently shaking. This should also help remove any bugs or bees that might have stowed away within the petals.
- Where possible, and for best results, use flowers on the day you pick them. If that’s not possible then pop them in the fridge for a few days, I use an old takeaway container.
- If you decide to freeze your flowers, cook or infuse them to get the most out of them.
- Where smaller flowers are in umbels (short stalks that spread from one common point – parsley and fennel are good examples – that look a bit like umbrella ribs, hence umbel) you can cut these flowers off and use them whole.
- The petals are often the best parts of many edible flowers. So remove the heel at the base of the petal (it’s bitter), as well as the stamens, pistil and calyx of larger flowers. Some, like pansies, however, you can eat whole.
My top 5 uses for edible flowers:
Some of my favourite uses – in no particular order!
- In salads as a vibrant, fresh garnish – not only looks good but tastes good too.
- As sugared or glazed decorations, normally on top of cakes but could be used to decorate any dish.
- For flower infused water or floral cocktails or better still as gin infusions, which I like to call GinFusions.
- As flower ice cubes. Freeze whole buds in an ice cube tray to add the wow factor to summer drinks – the kids go nuts for these.
- To brighten up jellies and jams, again loved by the kids too.
Word of Caution:
If you’re in any doubt as to whether or not a flower is edible – don’t eat it. It’s a simple rule of thumb, but effective. Also, if you have pollen allergies, you might want to avoid eating edible flowers altogether.
Here are a few other important tips:
- Don’t pick faded, dusty, old or dis-coloured flowers in your garden (or when foraging), as they are past their best.
- Avoid flowers that are near a road or an area that animals use, think of all those pollutants or the possibility of animal faeces – yuk!!
- Don’t treat your edible flowers with pesticides. Instead, use organic methods to removes pests OR cut the flower back and encourage regrowth instead.
My top 10 edible flowers:
I guess that just leaves me to tell you my top 10 edible flowers.
You can find out more about each of them in this blog post and why I grow them.
If you’re tempted to grow your own why not pick up the Edible Flowers Seed Collection from the store 🙂