Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bite A Beautiful Blossom, Edible (Savory) Flowers

Edible flowers is a subject near and dear to my heart, because not only do I love to cook and entertain, but I'm also a certified floral designer,and a passionate gardener.  This subject feeds all my passions (pun intended).

I think to make things a little easier, I'm going to put edible flowers into two categories. Sweet & Savory.  There are some exceptions to this rule, like lavender. It's usually used in sweet recipes, but it's also one of the ingredients in Herbs de Provence.  This post will cover savory and we will cover sweet in another post.
There are a few warnings  that you should know about before jumping into the the wonderful world of edible flowers.
1). Never eat a flower if you're not certain it's edible. There are many flowers that are toxic or even poisonous.  
2). Only eat organic flowers that are grown for the purpose of eating.
3). Don't eat flowers that come from the florist, or floral department. These flowers are grown, and bred for the sole purpose of looking beautiful, and having a long vase life. As a result they are loaded with herbicides, pesticides, and chemicals not safe for human consumption.  

    Where do I find edible flowers?  That's probably one of your first questions. The best and most affordable place to find edible flowers is your garden, or windowsill.  Right now, just in the pots on my porch I have 8 types of organic edible blossoms.  The next easiest place is  the produce section of your grocery store.  They're usually with the fresh herbs. Check and make sure that they're fresh, and colorful.  If you're not happy with what you see, don't be afraid to ask the produce manager if he's got more in the back, or when he's expecting his next shipment.  Edible flowers online usually come in bulk, so unless your throwing a large party  this can be  expensive. Consider starting a flower/herb co-op with friends and neighbors, this is an especially good idea if you don't have a lot of room for gardening, or if you're a novice.  Then you can all share your edible flowers, herbs, and gardening tips over coffee in the garden :)
How do I use edible flowers in my recipes,  is probably the next question you have. This brings be back to the sweet and savory categories, but in my experience. I do have to say, use them sparingly.  Many sweet flowers have a strong flavor and aroma (roses and lavender  are two that come to mind) you want the subtle essence of flavor in your dish, you don't want to overwhelm all the other flavors.  You also need to be careful with roses and lavender because your recipe can take on a soapy flavor very easily. Even in savory dishes or salads, edible flowers should compliment the look and flavor of your dish. The reality is that most people aren't going to be excited about  eating an entire flower, so if you intend for it to be eaten (as opposed to garnish) think about using petals instead of the entire flower.
So our first category is going to be  Savory blossoms, this is by no means a be all, and end all list, I think I could write a book on this subject, so I'll just highlight some of my favorites.
herb blossom vinegar's

A good thing to remember is that all herbs have blossoms (eventually). The blossoms will have the same flavor as the leaves.  I love using herb blossoms to make herbal vinegar.  Here is link to the tutorial I did on herbal vinegar's.   http://shannonsshanonigins.blogspot.com/2010/12/great-gifts-homemade-herbal-vinegar.html 

Herb Blossoms- Chive-Basil-Thyme, just to name a few- blossoms will have the same taste as the herb leaf
Chive Blossoms

Nasturtium- bright flowers-  peppery taste


Borage-small blue & lavender flowers - cucumber taste
Salad with Borage blossoms

Marigold-  Also Called Calendula & Poor Man's Saffron-Yellow & Orange flowers - spicy to bitter taste

Carnation- Varied colors- Spicy, peppery, clove-like

Chrysanthemum -varied colors- slightly to very bitter. Only use the petals and blanch first for a milder flavor.

Lavender- lavender, blue or purple small blossoms-Floral
Freshly harvested lavender

Scarlet Runner Beans- Scarlet- nectar, bean like
Scarlet Runner Bean Blossoms

Snapdragons-varies- bland to bitter- mostly used as a garnish

Zucchini Blossoms-large orange and green buds- nectar, sweet

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Amaranth 
By Cornelia Guest,

Here is a recipe from the Cornelia Guest Simple Pleasures Cookbook that I reviewed earlier this year

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Amaranth 
By Cornelia Guest,

Serves 4

Total time: 45 minutes

Zucchini blossoms are so beautiful. This is so easy to make, and your friends will be very impressed. You can make the stuffing the day before so you can enjoy your friends, stuff the blossoms and have a great lunch. Amaranth is a gooey grain that works well as a stuffing. I serve this dish with iced tea with mint or a crisp white wine. Fresh tomatoes go well with the squash blossoms.
3 cups amaranth
1 medium onion
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 zucchini
1 small eggplant (you want to end up with 1-1/2 cups after its is cooked)
1 garlic clove
4 large blossoms per serving
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add amaranth. Simmer and cook until water is absorbed, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Quarter the onion and cook in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 30 minutes over medium heat until caramelized.
3. Dice zucchini and sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Dice eggplant and garlic and sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 10 minutes.
5. Mix the cooked vegetables with the amaranth and add parsley. Fill the squash blossoms with the mixture. Serve at room temperature.
So I've shown you how to make herbal vinegar's with herb blossoms and given you Cornelia Guest's recipe for Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, what else can you do with edible blossoms?
1).  Sprinkle a salad or greens with a few colorful petals
2). Sprinkle colorful petals over a soup to give it a pop of color, texture, and taste.
3). Use flowers to garnish dishes that would otherwise be a little drab or lack color
4). Use yellow marigolds the way you would saffron to add yellow to soup and rice dishes.
5). Mince the colorful petals of herb flowers to make a beautiful and flavorful herb butter
6). Use Borage flowers to brighten lemonade, gin & tonic, or other beverages
7). Stuff Zucchini blossoms with a cream cheese and minced chive mixture.

So get out in the garden and start looking at flowers in a whole new light. Edible flowers are a sure fire way to impress your guests when entertaining, and a wonderful way to make your dishes and recipes more beautiful.
I would love to hear how you have used edible flowers in your recipes, or answer any questions you may have about edible blossoms.


  1. This is so interesting and beautiful. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Shannon,

    I just love dropping in to see what's happening on your blog. Just a breath of fresh air. Love It. ♥♥

  3. This is such a beautiful and HELPFUL post, thanks so much for sharing Shannon!