8 Edible Flowers for Beautiful Salads and Desserts
What’s not to love about fresh flowers? They look good, they smell good, and as it turns out, a lot of them taste good too! Adding edible flowers to your food is an easy way to take a simple dish and turn it into a work of art— a guaranteed way to impress friends and family at your next dinner party. While not all flowers are edible, many that grow here in Simcoe are totally safe to eat and are packed with loads of vitamins, so why not add some of these to your garden this summer? Who knows, maybe you already have a few in some of your planters outside!
How to Cook with Edible Flowers
Before you start popping off flower heads and eating them like candy, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure the best possible harvest that’s not only delicious, but also safe to eat:
Don’t eat edible flowers that have been sprayed with chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides are full of harsh chemicals that could potentially cause illness, so keep things organic and chemical-free if your flowers are going to end up on your family’s plates.
Not all flowers are edible, and some are poisonous. It’s definitely not a good idea to eat any flower before checking if it’s safe to consume. Just do a quick Google search before chowing down, and you’re good to go.
Edible flowers taste the best when they look their best. Harvest flowers when they’re at their peak, preferably in the morning so they maintain higher moisture levels, as this is when they taste the best. Plus, the sight of tired, wilted flowers isn’t exactly an appetizing addition to your plate.
Keep them fresh with proper storage. If you want to save your edible flowers for later in the day, you can cut them at the stem and place them in a cup of water until you’re ready to use them. If you’d like to store them for longer, fill a Tupperware container with a moist paper towel, place the flowers inside and refrigerate them for up to one week.
Try to use them in cold dishes. While some flowers like lavender can be pressed and baked into sugar cookies, generally you’ll find that flowers lose their colour and volume when exposed to heat.
The Best Types of Edible Flowers for Gorgeous Dishes
Here are some of our favourite edible flowers you can grow in Simcoe, and the types of dishes that they taste great in:
Cooking with edible flowers is a delight for the senses— the sight, the scents, and the flavours are incomparable. At your next dinner party, if you present an assortment of beautiful dishes featuring fresh blossoms from your garden, don’t be surprised if your guests whip out their phones and flood Instagram with pictures of your latest creations!
Nasturtiums: The bright blossoms of these common edible flowers have a hint of spice, making them a great ingredient for salads, or even fresh summer pasta tossed in garlic and oil. The buds of nasturtiums, called capers, pack a ton of flavour and are especially prevalent in Italian cooking. The leaves of these edible plants are pretty tasty too, so feel free to pluck off a few and toss them in for a little extra green stuff!
Chives: It’s not just the green parts of the chive that have that delicious garlicky onion flavour— the purple blossoms have it too! Tear up their spiky petals and sprinkle them into all sorts of dishes for a deliciously savoury kick.
Lavender: Often lauded for its calming fragrance and frequent use in aromatherapy, this lovely purple blossom has a pretty potent flavour that pairs beautifully with lemon and can be used in loads of desserts. Press tiny lavender sprigs into cookies and cakes for that extra special touch. You can even take it a step further and boil them into a simple syrup for pouring on top of ice cream or mixing into some fabulous summer cocktails.
Pansies and Violas: These are some of the prettiest edible flowers around, and they’re versatile too! They have a nice mild flavour that complements both savoury and sweet dishes, so try sprinkling them on top of salads, or press them into some vanilla frosted cupcakes.
Dandelions: That’s right, all this time you’ve been begrudgingly plucking out these weeds from your lawn, you could have been tossing them into salads or brewing them into soothing herbal teas! The flower, the stems and leaves, and even the roots are safe to eat. Plus, there’s certainly no shortage of them in Simcoe.
Begonias: Turns out these ever-popular container garden flowers are pretty yummy! Their strong citrus taste adds a lemony zip to both salads and desserts. Wax begonias and tuberous begonias are both edible flowers, but you should take some caution with the latter— tuberous begonias contain oxalic acid, which should be avoided by folks with rheumatism, kidney stones, or gout.
Calendula: These bright orange edible flowers are often used in place of saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. They have a delightful tang that really stands out in rice dishes, so save yourself a little dough and opt for this budget-friendly alternative.
Roses: A rose by any other name still tastes as sweet! These fragrant edible flowers can be used fresh or dry as a garnish for many desserts. Similar to lavender, edible roses make a great base for aromatic simple syrups. For an exotic twist on a classic dessert, mix up some rose syrup and crumbled pistachios into vanilla ice cream— it’s a popular treat in the Middle East!