Edible flowers add color, flavor and nutrition to your favorite recipes. Not all pretty garden blossoms are suitable as food flowers. Some flowers can be toxic, so never use flowers as food unless you are sure they are safe to eat. Knowing what to look for and the basic flavor of the blooms helps you make the right choice when selecting food flowers for use in your kitchen.
Some grocery stores sell edible food flowers, but usually you must grow them yourself. Select only flowers that are known to be edible and that haven't been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. Avoid collecting flowers from the wild unless you are positive that they haven't been chemically treated. Select food flowers that are in their peak bloom. Pick those with no damaged petals or signs of disease. Pick the flowers on the day you plan to serve them, as they wilt quickly and lose their flavor and nutritive quality if you store them.
Herbs produce many edible flowers. Chamomile, lavender, dill and chive blossoms are used both as fresh food flowers and dried for use in cooking. Ornamental flowers can also be edible. Calendula flowers have slightly spicy, saffron like taste and are used in raw and cooked foods. Dandelion blossoms and greens are used in salads and stir fries. Gardenia and jasmine flowers have a sweet, perfumed taste, while mums and marigolds are slightly bitter. Citrus flowers have a sweet, slightly lemon like flower that complements baked desserts and ice cream well.
Edible food flowers are often used as garnishment. A single pansy blossom floating on top a creamy soup is both attractive and flavorful. Flowers also often make an appearance in salads and other cold dishes. You may even find a few flowers scattered on an empty portion of a plate to fill the space with color. Edible flowers have a flavor their own so they can take starring entire role in a meal as well. Nasturtiums have a peppery flavor that adds bite to fresh salads and wraps. The highly aromatic flavor of lavender blossoms is used in cooked breads, desserts and teas. Squash blossoms taste best when lightly battered and fried.
If you are highly allergic to flowers, food flowers may not be a good option for you. Even if you have no known allergies proceed with caution when you first begin eat flowers, since an allergic reaction can occur. Remove the pistils and stamens from the flowers, since these contain the pollen that is most likely to cause a reaction. Eat only a few new varieties of flowers each time you try them so your body can adjust and so you can trace the allergen to the proper flower if there is a reaction. Composite flowers are more likely to cause an allergic reaction. Remember that just because the flower is edible doesn't mean the whole plant is. The seeds, leaves, roots or stems can be highly toxic even on food flowers.