Edible Flowers

Edible flowers are back in vogue, gracing the covers of glossy food magazines, and adding panache to restaurant entrees. Today's flower cookery revival is defined less by "glam" than the move toward local and sustainable food options, consumers growing their own fresh produce, and more adventurous cooking ingredients. Flowers add color, texture and vibrancy to any dish, not to mention enlivened conversation.

This blooming trend can be traced back through human history for thousands of years to the Romans, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures. In fact, flower cookery was especially popular in Victorian times, when flowers such as violets, primroses and nasturtiums were common in salads, pickled for winter storage, and candied for special occasion garnishes.

You may not be aware that you probably already eat many flowers, such as broccoli and cauliflower heads, capers and saffron. But when you're dining on garden-variety flowers, only the petals are typically ingested, with the exception of pansies, violets and Johnny-jump-ups. Generally, the interior parts such as pistils and stamens are removed before eating.

Beware of poisonous flowers. For unfamiliar flowers, be sure they are edible before you partake, as some, such as delphinium or foxglove, are poisonous. Many more flowers are unsafe to eat than safe, so if there's any doubt, consult a credible reference such as the "AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants."

Also important to know is how a flower is grown. Never eat flowers exposed to pesticides or other chemicals, which may include those harvested roadside, grown in home gardens, or available from florists, nurseries or garden centers. These flowers are not grown for consumption and may have been exposed to untreated manure and pesticides not labeled for food crops. Fortunately, organically grown edible flowers are becoming more common in the produce section of grocery stores.

Culinary trial is important when it comes to flower cookery. Try pairing sweet or floral scented blossoms with a dessert or cool drink, or peppery nasturtiums with a salad. Pick edible flowers (grown in safe conditions) in the early morning, when their water content is highest. Shake to free of hidden insects before washing in cool water. Drain and dry thoroughly on an absorbent towel before use. Preserve whole flowers refrigerated in a glass of water overnight or seal in plastic with a damp paper towel.

Safe, Edible Flowers

Pick these flowers to brighten your favorite recipes.

Bachelor's button






English daisy










Passion flower

Pineapple sage

Red clover


Scented geraniums

Signet marigold





Source: North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension


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Edible Flowers - Fresh Flowers That Are Safe to Eat

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