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Edible Spring Flower

March 29, 2013

Bloomin' onions—you know the tasty breaded deep-fried onions served commonly at steakhouse—are not the only things blooming this season. Coming from South Texas, this is my favorite times of year when the bluebonnets and wild flowers are in season. I think it is a state law that if you have a child, or get married or engaged, your pictures must be taken in a field of bluebonnets. Then there are the blossoms in the garden. Summer squash, herbs, tomatoes, so many beautiful blooms cropping up to enjoy. And many of spring's blooms are not only beautiful but delicious. In fact, spring flowers can make fabulous looking garnishes for cupcakes and used within dishes to create fresh, unique tastes ideal for the spring season.

Squash Blooms | CHEFS MixI think most people know some of the common edible flowers—squash blossoms, hibiscus, pansies and roses, to name a few. As a kid, who didn't find the nearest honeysuckle bush and pull out the stamen for that tiny, sweet drop of nectar. But please, don't just run into the garden or nearest blossoming field and start grabbing flowers to nosh. While there are many flowers and plants that are edible, there are an equal number that can make you very sick.

First, always remember to only use flowers that you are sure are edible. Typically, you should only use the petals; however, sometimes the leaves are edible and flavorful, too. Additionally, I recommend avoiding flowers from florists or stores that sell flowers because they are sprayed with chemicals. In addition, for those with hay fever or other outdoor allergies, you may want to avoid these natural dishes. Some recipes including blossoms that are ideal for the home cook include:

Violet JamViolet Jam Recipe | CHEFS Mix

I recommend trying this on your toast tomorrow morning. You will wonder why you wasted your time with grape jelly for so long—I know I did. This particular recipe calls for the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups of wild violet blossoms
  • 1-1/2 cup of water
  • 2-1/2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 medium lime (you can also use a lemon).
  • 1 package of pectin (1.75 oz.) 

I begin by using a food processor to blend the flowers. Then, add 3/4-cup water, lime juice, and blend well. Slowly add the sugar and continue blending. At this point, it will turn into a paste. Bring the pectin and water to a boil, and then mix it in the food processor with the other ingredients. Pour mixture into jars, immediately to set.

Yarrow EggsYarrow Eggs Recipe | CHEFS Mix

Foodies, you have to try this! I like to make a big breakfast consisting of yarrow eggs and violet jam on toast; it is the ultimate springtime breakfast or brunch. To make yarrow eggs, you need:

  • 3 eggs, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup chopped yarrow
  • 1/2 of a small onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste (You can also use cayenne pepper or fresh garlic instead.)

I start by chopping up my yarrow finely and cutting a half an onion. I saute the yarrow with the onion until the onion is translucent, then add the eggs. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Using a spatula, scrape the pan frequently to move the cooked eggs away from the pan surface, allowing the raw egg to move down. Serve hot, with toast and violet jam.

Salad Garnishes

Edible Flowers in Salad | CHEFS Mix

I absolutely adore using spring buds as garnishes for desserts, pasta dishes and even cottage cheese. I sometimes freeze them in ice cubes and use them to liven up my spring cocktails. However, spicing up a salad is simple when you know what flowers you can use to enhance the flavor and look of your greens. Some examples include carnations, basil flowers, apple blossoms and day lilies. Personally, I like using carnations or day lilies because they come in a variety of colors, so I can add a mixture of hues or stick with one color scheme.

My personal favorite is arugula and baby spinach topped with basil flowers and Parmesan cheese with a homemade vinaigrette dressing. Other fun and flavorful combinations include red leaf lettuce and day lilies, mixed greens with carnations or radicchio, endive and apple blossoms.

Know the FlowersEdible Flowers Quick Reference | CHEFS Mix

  • Proper identification of edible flowers is important. Consult proper authorities or reference guides when unsure about the species or edibleness of a flower. If in doubt, no not take the risk*. For the best flavor, use flowers that are at their peak and are grown without pesticides.
  • If you are prone to allergies, introduce flowers in small amounts so you can judge their effect. Some have a much more pronounced flavor than others, so you'll need to judge accordingly.
  • Asthmatics or others who suffer allergic reactions to composite-type flowers (calendula, chicory, chrysanthemum, daisy, English daisy, and marigold) should be on alert for possible allergic reaction.

Edible flowers

Common name

Tastes like

Comments

Angelica

Celery

May be skin allergen to some individuals. Good with fish and the stems are especially popular candied.

Anise hyssop

Sweet, anise, licorice

Apple

Floral

Eat in moderation; may contain cyanide precursors.

Arugula

Nutty, spicy, peppery

Basil

Herbal, different varieties have mild lemon, mint, etc., flavors

Bee balm

Minty, sweet, hot

Used in place of bergamot to make a tea with a flavor similar to earl grey tea.

Borage

Herbal, light cucumber flavor

Burnet

Herbal, mild cucumber flavor

Calendula**

Saffron, spicy, tangy, peppery

Adds a golden hue to foods

Carnation

Spicy, peppery, clove-like

Chamomile**

Faint apple flavor

Good as a tea

Chicory*

Herbal

Buds can be pickled.

Chives

Onion, Garlic variety will have a garlic-onion flavor.

Avoid eating whole flower, taste can be overwhelming

Chrysanthemum

Slight to bitter flavor, pungent

Use the florets

Lemon

Waxy, pungent

Use sparingly as an edible garnish, good for making citrus waters

Clover

Vegetal

Raw flower heads can be difficult to digest.

Coriander

Pungent, some describe the flavor as soapy

A prime ingredient in salsa and many Latino and Oriental dishes.

Cornflower**

Sweet to spicy, clove-like

Dandelion**

Young flowers are sweet and honey-like. Mature flowers are more bitter.

Very young buds fried in butter taste similar to mushrooms. Makes a potent wine.

Day lily

Vegetal, sweet

Many lilies (lillium species) contain alkaloids and are not edible. Day lilies may act as a laxative. Remove the narrow base of the petals, as it will be bitter.

Dill

Herbal, fresh

Pairs nicely with lemon and is often used with fish and poultry

English daisy**

Raw flowers will be mildly bitter. Cooked flowers will be vegetal and tangy.

Fennel

Sweet, mild anise or licorice flavor

 

Fuchsia

Slightly acidic

Gardenia

Slightly sweet

Gladiolus**

Vegetal

Hibiscus

Slightly acidic, fruity

Boiled and steeps makes a nice tea or iced beverage. Showy edible garnish

Hollyhock

Vegetal

Showy edible garnish

Honeysuckle: japanese

Sweet

Berries are highly poisonous. Do not use other honeysuckle flowers.

Impatiens

From no flavor to herbaceous

Jasmine: arabian

Delicate, sweet flavor

Johnny-jump-up

Bland to sweet, minty flavor

Contains saponins and may be toxic in large amounts.

Lavender

Sweet, perfumed flavor

Lavender oil may be poisonous. Use sparingly due to intense flavor.

Lemon verbena

Lemon

Boiled and steeped makes a nice tea

Lilac

From no flavor or green and herbaceous, to lemony and floral

Mallow: common

Sweet, delicate flavor

Marigold

Spicy to bitter

Lemon Gem and Tangerine Gem have the best flavor

Mint

Minty

Different varietals have unique flavors

Mustard

Mustard

 

Eating in large amounts may cause red skin blotches.

Nasturtium

Spicy, peppery, mildly pungent

Buds are often pickled and used like capers.

Okra

Vegetal

Similar to squash blossoms

Pansy

Very mild sweet to tart flavor

Radish

Milder, sweeter version of the more familiar radish heat

Redbud

Mildly sweet

Tastes like:

Red clover

Sweet

Raw clover flowers are not easily digestible

Rose

Sweet, aromatic flavor, stronger fragrance produces a stronger flavor

Remove the bitter white portion of the petals. Rose hips are also edible.

Rosemary

Herbal

Runner bean

Nectar, bean-like

Safflower**

Saffron

Sage

Herbal

Snapdragon

Bland to bitter flavor

Squash blossom

Sweet, nectar flavor

Sunflower**

Flower is best eaten in bud stage when it has an artichoke flavor; petals of open flowers have a bitter- sweet flavor

Lightly steam petals to lessen bitterness. Unopened flower buds can be steamed like artichokes.

Thyme

Herbal

Fragrant

Violet

Sweet, perfumed

(Sources: homecooking.about.com; NC State University)

*Know the risks: While we have done our best to make sure all the sources and information are correct, individuals consuming the flowers, plants, or derivatives from this list do so entirely at their own risk. Neither the editors or CHEFS Catalog can be held responsible for any adverse reaction to the flowers.  

**Considered a composite flower. Only the petals of these flowers are edible. Chances for allergic reaction may be higher with these edible flowers due to high pollen content. Composite flowers should not be consumed by those with asthma or other sensitivities.

Your Turn: What edible flowers to you use in the kitchen?

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Tags: Edible Flowers

Categories: Food & Recipes, Tips & Advice