Edible flowers for beginners: What to pick and how to use them in cooking
If you’re feeling excited about getting into the spring of things (lame pun intended) but are still waiting for winter to bugger off, why not dabble in flowers in your food?
First off, why would you want to eat flowers?
Why wouldn’t you? But also:
-Much like herbs, some flowers (note: not all flowers are edible – let’s just get that out the way) offer rich medicinal properties. Chamomile flowers in tea, for example, have a wonderful calming effect on the nervous system and promote sleep.
-Flowers are delightful and can infuse an ordinary-looking salad into a feast for the eyes and soul.
Edible flowers for beginners
If you’re taken with the idea, the following flowers are not only edible but also beyond easy to grow.Lavender There are several different varietals to choose from based on the conditions you’re growing them in and can be used in tea, cordials, biscuits and the like. They offer a delicate, perfumed flavour (you may recognise it from some Earl Grey tea) and go really well with white chocolate or vanilla desserts. They also complement chicken and roasted carrots nicely (just pop a few sprigs into the roasting tray).
These may have only been seen as a weed or abundant river bed overgrowth before, but these peppery flowers that are wildly easy to grow add glorious colour to any salad.
These are the tiny blue, star-shaped flowers that grow on the borage herb bush. They’re fairly mild, sweet and similar to cucumber. Use them in cordials or gin and tonics.
I think of these as the Alice in Wonderland flowers. They have a light, minty, almost grassy taste profile, so they’re a natural addition to fruit salads and cocktails. (I’m starting to think – what can’t you put in a G&T?) They also make for a tasty topper on cream cheese party platters.
Most people only eat the leaves, but this entire plant is edible – so, if you’re growing them at home, don’t waste the delicate, white flowers. They’re an aromatic gem with subtler coriander flavour atop crackers with mascarpone and cured trout.
Cooking with edible flowers like a pro
These are the orange ruffley flowers that grow on a zucchini vine. They have a similar but milder taste to the veg but adapt to whatever you’re cooking it with. They can be enjoyed raw, stuffed with ricotta and deep fried, in summer pastas, or – if you’re keen to try something more high-level – why not attempt the squash blossom quesadilla?
Calendula or marigold
This one is a delight because it also makes for a great companion plant in your veggie patch to keep the bugs away. The long thin golden petals of the marigold flower, when fried in some olive oil, are known as ‘poor man’s saffron’, with a very similar subtle spice taste. It’s good for drizzling over pasta or to dress up devilled eggs.
This flower became rather trendy recently for its health properties. The edible part most commonly used isn’t actually the flower itself but the soft tissue below the flower. It offers a sweet, tangy and almost cranberry-like taste that can really level up your teas, syrups, tonics and cocktails.
Little, purple and lovely, these aromatic gems are quite earthy and savoury-tasting. They’re fabulous in gourmet popsicles or used in stews and soups.
Tips for eating edible flowers
• Always opt for pesticide-free flora, because, you know, toxic chemicals are bad for you and the bees.·
• Even if you see a bush of your favourite edible blooms growing along the roadside, steer clear. Those poor flowers inhale fumes.
• When buying from a nursery, make sure you know what you’re looking for. Sometimes they can be incorrectly labeled, so be cautious if you’re a gardening newbie.
• If you can, grow your own, it’s organic and plastic-free, to boot.The world of edible flowers is vast and beautiful – this list covers only the tip of the iceberg. But hopefully spring will be long, leaving you with plenty of time to experiment.