Edible flowers, when used appropriately, can brighten any beverage, dish or palate. They can be made into syrups, teas, jellies and marinades or simply used as a garnish in salads.
The key thing, of course, is to learn which flower works best with each dish so that flavors complement one another. Equally, if not more, important is to know which parts of a flower are edible. For example, in composite flowers — such as chicory, daisies and marigolds — only the petals are edible.
If you have asthma, get hay fever or are allergic to ragweed, you should not eat composite flowers. Doing so can result in an extreme allergic reaction. And if you decide to give edible flowers a try, learn which ones are huge no-no's. Although it's not an exhaustive list, About.com lists many non-edible, poisonous flowers that you should never ever eat.
Illustrated Bites designed this lovely infographic listing 11 edible beauties, but we decided to dig a little deeper to find even more edible flowers and the dishes they complement best. Here they all are.
According to Our Herb Garden, almost the entire Angelica plant can be used in the kitchen. For example, while still succulent, the foliage can be used as salad greens or roasted or boiled like potatoes. Angelica stems can also be blanched like celery or candied. Tender Angelica leaves can be boiled and are similar to spinach. They are also used as a garnish for meat and fish. Angelica seeds are aromatic and a bit bitter, and are typically used to flavor beverages, cakes, candies and comfits.
Warning: This flower may trigger skin allergies in sensitive individuals.
According to Mother Earth Living, herb lovers use the fresh or dried leaves in tea and crumble the tangy flowers, which taste like licorice, over fruit salad.
Also known as bergamot, its fresh or dried flowers, as well as its leaves, can be brewed into an aromatic tea. According to Edible Wild Food, its leaves are edible raw or cooked, and are used in salads and cooked foods. Its flowers make an attractive edible garnish in salads.
The Herb Gardener describes the borage flowers as an edible decoration, explaining that they are generally considered safe, although they may cause allergic reactions. Borage flowers are small, bright blue, star-shaped blossoms that can be sugared and added to cookies, cakes and other desserts. They're also very pretty when frozen into ice cubes. In addition to the flowers, borage leaves, which taste mildly of cucumber, can be served in salads. Stick with the young leaves, though, cautions The Herb Gardener. As borage matures, the leaves become hairy, prickly and unappealing.
Also called marigolds, this flower's colorful petals, explains Castanea, are actually the ray florets, that is, diminutive flowers that serve a similar function as petals. The marigold's ray florets can be eaten raw or cooked in salads, salsas, scrambled eggs and frittatas, or as a garnish on just about any dish. Calendula tastes a little spicy, tangy and peppery. The whole flower can be dried and added to soups and stews.
Don't use the ones you buy at the flower shop. If you want to get the most out of the carnation's spicy, peppery, clove-like flavor, you've got to purchase edible ones from specialty grocery stores. Carnation petals can brighten up a green salad, according to eHow, which adds that steeping them in wine or cordials adds a spicy kick. They can be candied and added to desserts, or steeped in sugar water to make syrup that can be the base for ice cream, a glaze for lamb or the foundation for creative cocktails.
Chamomile flowers are best known for the aromatic herbal tea that they produce. It tastes faintly of apples and touted for its medicinal purposes, which include everything from relieving menstrual cramps and gas pains to helping with respiratory issues and insomnia.
Although the flower of the chicory plant is edible, it tastes very bitter. Its leaves and roots are also edible. According to Edible Wild Food, its leaves are tastiest in the spring and autumn, as the summer heat tends to make them taste a little bitter. Blanch them before adding them to salad. And the mature green leaves can be cooked as you would a vegetable.
According to This Old House, you can remove the cornflower's petals from the bitter center bud and mix them into a pasta salad not only to give it extra color but also to add an earthy, clove-like flavor.