I don’t like anything plain whether on my plate, in my home or in my wardrobe, the avocado salad pictured above is no exception. I drizzled it with a delicious vinaigrette and added fresh lavender when blending, truly a salad made for nobility and we’re all entitled to eat this way. It’s a choice in everything we do, plain or accessorized.
The muffins shown above are made with almond flour and chopped cranberries. What an elegant way to serve when topped with garden freshness bursting in color.
Today people have become more conscious of the food they put into their bodies because they’re better educated that “we are what we eat.” While we often embrace fresh and organic foods, we may be overlooking one key source of food and health benefits: edible flowers. Yes, certain flowers can do more than decorate the landscape, garnish our plates, and add a pop of color to our homes. Edible flowers not only add color, they also grace our palate with texture, flavor, and nutrition while providing us with some incredible health benefits.
It’s an elegant and fun twist to use edible flowers to garnish your food. My gardens are in full bloom right now with every color imaginable! I have dwarf zinnias in reds, yellows, pinks and white. Purple coneflowers (otherwise known as Echinacea), white coneflowers, lime green coneflowers, pineapple lilies, Shasta daisies, roses, nasturtiums, geraniums, impatiens, lavender, snapdragons and more! As much as I enjoy my flowers outside, it’s fun to bring them indoors too! I make cut fresh flower bouquets for my kitchen so I’m always enjoying the beautiful colors and scents that also include culinary herbs.
It’s SO simple to use fresh cut flowers and herbs to add some pizzazz to your food too! Garnishing food only takes a few seconds and the results are healthy, eye and palate-pleasing! Use flowers to “dress” finger food and transform a plain treat into an elegant one.
I’m using the term “Edible Flowers” only because you should make certain that the flowers you use are edible, even if you only use them as a garnish. I’ll give you several suggestions for flowers that are safe but you can also check out the following Edible Flower List. The other important advice is to make certain the flowers you use have not been sprayed with any pesticides or chemically treated, which is why I have an extensive flower and herb garden right outside my test kitchen on my large specially-designed terrace. You should never use flowers from a florist for garnishing your food—no matter how beautiful they are.
My Edible Flower Tips Include:
- Use flowers you KNOW are organically-grown.
- NEVER use roadside flowers or flowers from a flower shop or nursery.
- You can keep your cut flowers fresh by placing the stems in a moist paper towel and refrigerating in a tightly sealed container; they can last up to 10 days when stored this way.
- The best time to cut your flowers is early to midmorning or early evening; remove the stamen and pistil.
- Clean the flowers by shaking them to remove insects and bits of dirt. Gently wash each flower with a soft spray of water and then arrange on paper towels to air dry.
- Many edible flowers freeze well if you wash as listed above then wrap between paper towels and place in a tightly sealed freezer bag. This method is best tested BEFORE you plan to serve them to insure the species won’t wilt because their longevity and color depends on several variables including humidity, altitude and freezer temperature so you need to experiment.
- Only eat the petals of an edible flower if you have verified the rest of the plant is safe to eat.
- Eat small amounts at first to avoid any allergic responses or unpleasant side effects. If you react positively, slowly increase the amounts desired.
My Edible Flower Choices:
- This in only a partial list but you can see how easy it is to bring the beauty of your garden to your table.
- Dandelion—delicious in salads; they have a sweet flavor, like honey
- Carnation—great for salads or as a garnish
- Chive blossoms
- Pansies—beautiful in salads
- Rose petals
- Geranium leaves
- Sage blossoms
- Chrysanthemum petals
The following are some health benefits of specific flowers:
This edible flower is part of the chrysanthemum family and resembles a small daisy. It is often dried to create healing herbal teas. We often see it paired with mint and rosemary and is used to primarily relieve migraines and muscle tension.
This prolific backyard bloom is a diuretic and able to relieve inflammation. When properly prepared, they can treat appetite loss, stomach issues, gas, gallstones, pain in the joints, eczema, and even constipation. While you can eat dandelion flowers raw on their own, they are often bitter. Toss them in with some salad greens or soups. You can also use dandelions to make beneficial wines or teas.
Pansies have anti-microbial properties – they can help with a myriad of issues that affect our health. These can range anywhere from arthritis, skin problems, asthma, high blood pressure, and even epilepsy. Pick a few pansies to add to your salad and use their sweet flavor with mild grass undertones for a healthy boost.
When added or baked into food or infused in oils and vinegars, lavender adds hints of sweet and savory to dishes. Lavender can provide you with vitamin A, which is important to eye health and keeping our skin healthy. It also contains calcium and iron, which are important nutrients our bodies require. Eating lavender on a regular basis can ward off osteoporosis and even aid in reducing the symptoms of PMS. It has even been suggested by experts that consuming lavender may aid with controlling anxiety and depression due to its natural relaxing properties, just as studies have shown with lavender organic pure essential oil.
Coriander flowers and leaves are loaded with antioxidants and micronutrients. When the flowers and leaves are consumed, it helps keep blood sugar levels in check. This little flower also contains fiber, minerals, and vitamins like K. Vitamin K aids in blood clotting and heart protection. While known to have a strong herbal taste, coriander flowers have been known to have a cooling effect on spicy foods.
This small daisy-like flower, which faintly smells like apples, has been used for centuries as a natural remedy. Often, it is dried and steeped to make tea that is loaded with antioxidants and calming properties. This tiny flower may be able to lower risks of heart disease and cancer while aiding in digestion and sleep.
Mint flowers and leaves provide a fresh zing of flavor to vegetables, fruit salads, desserts, and even sauces. This common herb is known for aiding digestion and soothing stomach ailments.
Surprisingly, rose petals have a delicious flavor that can enhance a variety of drinks and fruit dishes. Besides being rich in vitamins and antioxidants, this popular edible flower has some pretty incredible health benefits that combat indigestion, constipation, urinary problems, stress, headaches, and arthritis.
Both the leaves and petals of the nasturtium plant are packed with nutrition, containing high levels of vitamin C. It has the ability to improve the immune system, tackling sore throats, coughs, and colds, as well as bacterial and fungal infections.
Chives and their blossoms add nutritional support and contain the carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin – reported to reduce oxidative stress in the eyes, and to slow the development of cataracts. In this way, chives may help boost vision. The immune system benefits from the vitamin C content of chives. Some researchers have reported that chives will combat Salmonella and other bacteria. Yes, chives act to rid the body of bacteria, and other health-depleting microorganisms like yeast and fungi. That’s pretty amazing! AND…just a tablespoon of chives added to your soup or blossoms in your salad can provide a significant amount of calcium, potassium, beta carotene, vitamin K and folic acid.
Pictured above are finger-food-sized rounds made from goat cheese chevre mixed with a bit of cream cheese, a dash of balsamic vinegar glaze (to taste), loads of fresh finely chopped garlic, rosemary, thyme and parsley; topped with flowers from my garden…my students and guests are still raving about not only the taste but also the presentation!
HINT: Use a small can, mold of your choice or other individual sized container, grease with avocado oil, fill with cheese mixture, top with your choice of edible flowers and refrigerate covered at least four hours. Gently turn container upside-down to free contents and serve. The containers I used to achieve the photo showing d’oeuvres were single-serving applesauce containers I collected—inexpensive and reusable.
A Few Precautions...
Before digging into the amazing world of edible flowers and their incredible health benefits, there are some precautions we need to consider. As with most food detective work, it’s wise to only eat flowers that you are positive are safe and non-toxic. For example, foxglove, potato, and sweet pea flowers are TOXIC. If you are in doubt, avoid them. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.