For a moment, let’s skip the talk about locally grown vegetables and fruits. Instead we’ll find a bit of inspiration in what’s blooming, maybe in your own backyard. Let’s chitchat about edible flowers. Flowers add rich colors, subtle to spicy flavors, have diverse uses, and will add a bit of magic to summer entertaining. You may already have flowers to use this season and can certainly start planning for spring 2015.
Cooking with flowers goes beyond baking and simple syrups. When my mother and I played with recipe ideas, she shared her memory of my Greek Yai-Yai sautéing the closed buds of daylilies with olive oil and a bit of fresh garlic. I remember her picking dandelion greens from the spring fields of my youth. She was from a generation that knew no waste.
With foraging on the upswing of food trends, doesn’t it make sense to explore your own backyard? Keep in mind that everything growing or blossoming is not safe to eat and some people may have severe allergic or digestive reactions to petals. A few safety tips:
- Only eat flowers that you know were grown organically, without chemical application.
- Always be 100% certain of your identification before eating any plant. Contact your local 4-H or university agriculture extension office in case you are in doubt.
- Each flower has its own unique flavor. Once it is properly cleaned and prepared, taste it before you commit to a recipe.
- Use caution eating flowers if you have allergies or asthma.
- Thoroughly wash flowers and be sure to check for insects. Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before preparing. Eat only the petals.
Sweet and Savory Flower Petal Inspiration
Calendula petals can be a bit spicy and are often referred to as the poor man’s saffron because of the color they lend to dishes. Sprinkle on chilled salads, roasted/grilled vegetables, use to color rice, or add to a savory butter recipe.
Borage flowers are a brilliant blue. Tender, young leaves and flowers have a cucumber-like flavor. Here is a link to some creative cooking ideas.
Dandelion blooms are best when young and tender. Most often you’ll hear about the use of leaves in salads, but petals of the dense heads can be used in baking or savory dishes and as a garnish. Dandelion wine is rather popular and on my list of things to make.
Daylily buds and blooms have a variety of uses. Sauté the closed blooms in olive oil with fresh garlic, or use them to hold salmon mousse. (Look for the Hemerocallis fulva variety. It is possible that daylillies can give some people severe or mild stomach upset.)
Elderflowers are commonly used in preparing simple syrups.
Gladiola are lovely when stuffed with a light filling. The petals can also be added to salads.
Scented geranium is my garden favorite! The tiny flowers are edible but the oil in the leaves yields a fabulous flavor and scent. Use for baking, jelly, sugar, or tea. There are many scented varieties. Have fun with this!
Lilac flowers can be used in salads, jelly, baked goods, butter, infused alcohol, or simple syrups.
Nasturtium leaves and flowers are edible with a spicy, peppery flavor. Use in salads and garnish. Add petals to tea sandwiches or coleslaw recipes.
Orchids (Vanilla, Dendrobium, and Cymbidium are the edible varieties.) The petals are edible and have a cucumber-like flavor. Ideal savory and dessert garnish.
Roses are dreamy in beverages, salads, baking mixes, and garnishes. Gently remove the petals as you wash the flower and look for insects. Often the white base can be bitter; remove if necessary.
Squash Blossoms make the perfect wrap for fillings. Be sure to clean and remove the pistil.
Tulip petals make a perfect vessel for dip, salads, ice cream, mouse, or sorbet. Pistils and stamens need to be removed before eating. Young and tender petals are best. Like daylilies, tulips may cause stomach upset.
Violets are a cook’s dream flower, with all the colors of the rainbow. Add to a fresh greens salad, use in cake or muffin batter, or sugar coat for decoration.
Herb Flowers. Garnish and season a dish with these buds: Chives, basil, lavender, thyme, dill, fennel, or arugula.
- Add petals to ice cubes.
- Add petals to chilled beverages or water.
- Use in a savory butter or cheese ball recipe.
- Sugar frost petals to add a bit of sparkle to cakes or sweets.
- Garnish salads and savory dishes.
- Dry brilliant colored petals and blend with sugar to use later for baking or drinks.
- Infuse sugar by tucking lavender, lilac, or scented geranium leaves with granulated sugar in a tightly sealing jar.
- Make a simple syrup using thyme, lilac, or lavender and use in tonic water, tea or lemonade. Be sure to float fresh herbs in the pitcher when serving or as a glass garnish.
Vegan Blueberry and Lavender Buttermilk Scones
I always have a jar of dried lavender buds in my pantry. I use a spice mill or mortar and pestle to break up the buds, which also releases their natural oils. For this recipe I used a mortar and pestle to evenly combine the sugar, lavender, and lime zest.
It should go without saying my recent addiction is slicing scones in half, slathering with ghee (from my on-line pantry at phoebespurefood.com) and toasting on my cast iron skillet, and topping with a drizzle of local honey. Nothing’s sweeter or finer.
Yield: 8 scones
- 2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
- 2 teaspoon lime juice
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (spelt or whole wheat white, preferred), extra for dusting
- 1/3 cup organic sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender, broken using a mortar and pestle or spice mill
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup raw coconut oil, melted
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Combine the milk and lime juice, set aside for 10 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk flour, sugar, lavender, zest, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Stir the buttermilk and coconut oil until combined. Pour the buttermilk into the flour mixture, adding the blueberries and stirring for 6-8 gentle strokes. It will be just combined. It should not be sticky or too crumbly.
Scoop the dough onto a flour dusted surface and gently fold over until it is not sticky and can be formed an 8-inch round, 1-inch high disc. Cut into eight pieces.
Place the pieces on the baking sheet and in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bake 15-17 minutes, until golden.
Savory Violet Butter
Use for bagels, sandwiches, grilled meat, fish, or vegetables.
- 4 ounces salted butter, softened (or vegan butter substitute)
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon lime zest
- 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
- 10 violet flowers, chopped
Combine all the ingredients.
Using a tablespoon measure scooper, form mini butter balls. Refrigerate until firm.
Want more recipes? Check our these delicious eats from me and my friends.
Elderberry Syrup by Nan Reinert
Mushroom Stuffed Tempura Fried Zucchini Blossoms by Tracy Barrett
Lavender Infused Syrup by Phoebe Canakis
Strawberry Lemon Verbena and Rose Petal Infused Syrup Phoebe Canakis
Rose Petal Shortbread by Phoebe Canakis
All photos are courtesy of the author.