Springtime brings long-awaited blossoms after bare months of winter. There’s color wherever you look. Flowers-to cut, to enjoy, to eat? If you pick the right ones, yes, some flowers are edible.
If you haven’t grown a flower in your own garden, thereby knowing its care, don’t eat it. Also, don’t eat flowers from florists, nurseries and garden centers, which may use chemicals to foster growth and lasting power. Additionally, never eat flowers growing along the roadside, possibly sprayed with herbicides. If you have allergies, please don’t eat flowers in order to avoid allergic reactions. If you enjoy a flower in a dish but haven’t eaten it before, enjoy only a few, so that if the flower doesn’t agree with your digestion, you’ll be spared discomfort. Never use a non-edible flower as a garnish.
To prepare edible flowers, wash the blossom thoroughly to remove any dirt or bugs. Drop the blossom into a bowl of ice water for 30-60 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Flowers are best used right away but if you need to prepare the flower ahead of time, wrap in wet paper towel and store in an airtight container. Longer stemmed flowers can be put in a glass of water if you plan to use soon after. When ready to use, remove the pistils and stamens (the reproductive parts inside the blossom) and trim any white part of the blossom next to the stem as it will taste bitter. You can remove petals and arrange them on a salad. Or drop smaller flowers into ice cube trays, freeze, and add to drinks.
The Allium family-flowering onions-is a great place to start your adventure with edible flowers. Alliums bloom from May to July, depending on the variety, and create drama in the garden with their distinctive shape and form. Most alliums have a ball-shaped bloom; some reach the size of tennis balls. The bloom may be tufted, spiky or clustered. Alliums like full sun, stand up to diseases and, best of all, are deer and gopher resistant. Why? Allium is Latin for garlic; the flavor may discourage herbivary. Allium’s over-400 species include leeks, shallots, chives, garlic and garlic chives. All members are edible; the flavor ranges from mild to strong. All parts of the plant are edible, with flowers having stronger flavor than leaves. As the seed heads develop, the flavor is even stronger. Use flowers on salads or the leaves cooked as a flavoring for soups. Chive blossoms have a light onion flavor and garlic blossoms impart a garlicky zing. Garlic flowers are milder than garlic bulbs and are good in salads.
Pansies are popular during the winter months and they’re lovely in salads. Roses are starting to bloom now and their petals can also be added to spring salads. Another common flower, the calendula-daisy-like in its bright yellow or orange color-is sometimes called poor man’s saffron and can be used to flavor soups, pasta, rice and herb butters.
Innovative chefs today are using flowers to flavor their specialty sauces in four- and five-star restaurants. Use your imagination with edible spring flowers to create wonderful dishes to delight your friends and family.
Julie Segerstrom has been a Master Gardener since 1996. She’s still learning how to ‘master’ the garden, and loves flowers and growing fresh vegetables.