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The most beautiful decoration with flowers is done by Cupcakes Nouveau in Coral Gables, Florida. Photo courtesy CupcakesNouveau.com.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MELODY LAN is a member of THE NIBBLE editorial staff.

 

April 2006
Last Updated June 2014

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Vegetables

Edible Flowers Glossary

Page 3: Types Of Edible Flowers

This is Page 3 of a three-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.

Types of Edible Flowers

Here are some the most common edible flowers that can easily be incorporated into everyday cooking and garnishing. The photos below are courtesy of Wikimedia.

Flower  

Allium: Onion-Like

All blossoms from the allium family—chives, garlic, garlic chives and leeks—are edible and delicious.

 

Angelica: Licorice-Like

Flowers range from pale lavender-blue to deep rose and have a licorice-like flavor.

 

Anise Hyssop


Both flowers and leaves have a subtle anise or licorice flavor.

 

Arugula: Peppery


The flowers of herbs and greens, including arugula, chive, dandelion, kale and mustard, are delicious and generally have flavor reminiscent of the mature vegetable. They range in color from white to yellow with dark purple streaks.

 

Photo courtesy of Purdue University Department of Agriculture

Rucola

Bachelors Button: Grassy

The petals of these pretty pale blue blossoms are grassy in flavor. Avoid the bitter calyx in the center.

 

Basil

If your potted basil sprouts blossoms, enjoy them! The flavor is similar to the leaves, but milder.

 

Bee Balm: Minty

These bright red pointed petals have a minty flavor.

 

Borage: Cucumber-Like

Borage flowers were formerly an essential ingredient in cider or wine. Now, they are used primarily as a garnish, especially for gin-based cocktails, salads, dips and cucumber soups—they have a refreshing, cucumber-like flavor. Their flavor also makes them a delightful accompaniment to poached seafood. The leaves of the plant can be used to season cabbage (two parts cabbage, one part borage).

borage flower

Calendula or Pot Marigold: Saffron-Like

Calendula’s golden petals range from a bitter spiciness to a tangy pepper flavor. The vibrant yellow calendulas are an inexpensive alternative to saffron, though not quite as pungent. They are most commonly used to add golden hues to foods. When sautéed with onions and added to a broth with rice, calendula petals make a rich Spanish paella. The petals are also popular scrambled with eggs or stirred into soups.

calendula

Carnation

Sweet, petals have the perfumy flavor of the flower’s aroma.

 

Chamomile: Apple-Like

Chamomile blooms faintly resemble the scent and flavor of freshly cut apples. The petals are frequently mixed into sour cream or pounded into butter, and then added to baked potatoes for a punch of flavor. Chamomile flowers have been used for centuries in tisanes, especially in Europe, Latin America and the U.S., as a calming sleep aid, for fever or stomach treatments and as an anti-inflammatory.

chamomile

Chervil

The delicate blossoms have a subtle anise flavor.

 

Chicory

The petals are mildly bitter and earthy, like the lettuce. Some people pickle the buds, like capers.

 

Cilantro

The flowers share the grassy qualities of the herb’s leaves.

 

Chrysanthemum: Peppery

Chrysanthemums have a faint black pepper flavor crossed with hints of cauliflower. Prized in Asia for their medicinal properties, chrysanthemum flowers are customarily infused to make a flowery herbal tea. Several species are commercially grown in East Asia as a leaf vegetable, known as tung ho. These dark green leaves are often stir-fried with garlic and dried chili peppers.

chrysanthemums

Citrus

Grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime and orange blossoms are sweet and highly perfumed. Use them sparingly.

 

Clover: Anise-Like

Clovers have a sweet, anise-like taste. High in protein, these petals are not easy to digest when raw, but this can be remedied by boiling them in water for 5 to 10 minutes. Dried flowerheads and seedpods are commonly ground up into a nutritious flour and mixed with other foods, or steeped in hot water for a healthy, invigorating tea.

clover
Collard Green Flowers
 
Dandelion: Honey-Like

Dandelions are sweet and honey-like in flavor. The petals contain more iron than spinach and have a high percentage of vitamin A and vitamin C. Eaten raw or cooked, dandelions are often used to make dandelion wine or soft drinks that are consumed before meals to stimulate digestive functions. Sold in most health food stores in a mixture, they are considered an excellent liver-cleansing tonic. “Dandelion and Burdock,” a naturally carbonated beverage made of fermented dandelions and burdock root, has been a long-time popular soft drink in the United Kingdom.

dandelion

Day Lilies or Golden Needles: Asparagus-Like

Crunchy and crisp like a lettuce leaf, daylilies have a sweet, mild vegetable flavor, like that of asparagus or zucchini. The flowers of some species are edible and are sold fresh and dried in Asian markets as Golden Needles. They are used in hot and sour soup and moo shu pork. Remove the stamens and use the flower as an edible “bowl” for chicken or lobster salad or for ice cream.

daylilies

Dill

The delicate yellow flowers taste like a mild version of the feathery leaves.

 

Fennel

The delicate yellow flowers taste like a mild version of the licorice-like leaves.

 

Fuchsia

The vivid red flowers are tangy and dramatic.

 

Gladiolus

The pastel blossoms are bland, but often served stuffed, or used as a salad garnish.

 

Hibiscus: Cranberry-Like

Cranberry-like in flavor, the hibiscus has an acidic character with citrus overtones. A native of Africa and certain regions of Asia, the flower is often diced and mixed into fruit or vegetable salads. The fleshy blooms are tangy, a great stand-in for seasonal and tropical fruits like mango or papaya.

hibiscus

Hollyhock

Bland and slightly vegetal like gladiolus, but the showy blossoms can be used as garnish.

 
Kale Flowers  

Impatiens

A bland flavor but vivid color. Some people candy them.

 

Jasmine

Wonderfully perfumed; as with citrus blossoms, they need to be used sparingly so the scent doesn’t overwhelm the food.

 

Johnny Jump-Up

See pansies, below.

 

Lavender: Floral & Smoky

Lavender is sweet and floral in flavor, with hints of smoke. When lavender is dried, it releases its most potent fragrance. (In cooking, use one-third the amount of dried lavender as you would fresh.) In the Mediterranean where it originated, lavender is used in sugars, custards, honeys, cakes, waters and vinegars. Its petals are customarily added to salads, slipped into glasses of champagne, or used as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. We love to bake with lavender (pound cakes, cookies), use it as a garnish on frosting, and make lavender ice cream and iced tea. Lavender lends itself to savory dishes too, taking rosemary’s place in recipes for things like chunky stews and wine-reduction sauces.

lavendar

Lemon Verbena

The tiny white blossoms have the scent of lemon. Pair them with dessert, seafood and tea.

 

Lilac

The flowers are pungent, but the floral, citrusy aroma makes a nice garnish with desserts and tea.

 

Mint

As with most herb flowers, the petals have a more subtle flavor akin to the leaves.

 
Mustard Flowers
 

Nasturtiums or Nose Twisters: Peppery

Nasturtiums are slightly sweet with peppery notes—similar to that of watercress. These blooms are high in vitamin C and come in hues like cream, scarlet, orange, yellow and two-toned. The pale and bicolor flowers tend to be milder in taste. With a vibrant range of petal colors, these flowers make excellent complements to salads or vegetable dishes. Served as whole flowers or minced, nasturtiums rank as the most popular edible flower for culinary purposes. Whole nasturtiums can be stuffed with mousse, mascarpone or crème fraîche for an impressive appetizer. Try nasturtium mayonnaise with seafood salad. The buds are often pickled and used like capers.

nasturtiums

Oregano

The red and white flowers deliver a subtle version of the leaf flavor.

 

Pansies or Johnny Jump-Ups: Wintergreen

These petals have a mild, tart wintergreen taste that echoes their sweet, light fragrance. The pansy’s entire bloom may be eaten without extracting pistils or stamens, which make this flower ideal as dessert or salad decor because the blossoms are often served whole. Pansies come in a variety of colors and are a year-round favorite for their delicate fragrance and flavor. An elegant way to serve these flowers is to place them atop a crunchy cracker layered with cream cheese. Use them in fruit dishes salads, pastas and drinks.

pansy flower

Radish Flowers

Radish flowers grow in white and pink, depending on the variety of radish. They deliver a distinctive, peppery bite.

Radish

Rose: Apple-Like

Most roses are edible but as with all flowers, they must be washed well and be free of chemical pesticides. The image to the right is of the sweetbrier rose, valued for its sharp apple-like fragrance of its foliage. Roses contain so much vitamin C that during World War II, they were eaten as a substitute for citrus fruits. In Middle Eastern cuisine, rose petals are distilled into syrups and rosewater, which are incorporated into pastries and confections. The darker the petal, the more flavor. Remove the white, bitter base and float the petals in drinks or scatter them across desserts.

sweetbrier rose

Rosemary

 

The lavender-hued flowers taste like a milder version of the herb. Use them to garnish dishes that are seasoned with rosemary.

 

Sage

The purple blossoms have a subtle flavor reminiscent of the leaves.

 

Squash Blossom: Squash Essence

Squash blossoms of all varieties have a garden-fresh taste. All of the flavors possess a similar sweet, nectar-like squash essence. Mediterranean chefs traditionally remove the pistils and stamens from the unopened blossoms, and stuff them with flavored bread crumbs, herbs and ricotta cheese for a hearty, gourmet dish. Like day lily buds, squash blossoms are frequently dipped in a light batter and fried. Acorn, patty pan squash, crookneck squash or zucchini flowers are the most popular edible squash blossoms. Remove the stamens before using.

squash flower

Sunflower

The petals can be eaten, and the bud can be steamed like an artichoke.

 

Violet

The blossoms are floral, sweet and beautiful as garnishes. Use the flowers in salads and to garnish desserts and drinks.

 
   

 

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