People often see flowers as many things; a beautiful bouquet, a stunning table centre piece, a single romantic rose or as a sign that spring is sprung. The one thing that does not enter any person’s thoughts is of flowers being a food. Everyone knows that herbs and spices, vegetables and fruits are all the product of plants however flowers can make any dish more attractive and unique and will introduce a new flavour. Obviously not all flowers are edible so knowing which are could open a whole new avenue for your restaurant’s menu. Some flowers can be eaten fresh and do not need preparation however others require a little extra care and attention to get the best flavour possible from them. Before you get carried away and munch on the first flower you see there are a few pointers which you must factor into the equation. You must make sure that the flower is organic and has not been exposed to any pesticides or chemicals. Even when you are sure that the flowers you pick are au natural, you must still thoroughly wash them before eating. There are also some other preparation measures which should be taken to guarantee that you get the best taste possible from your selection of flowers. After washing, you should then remove the pistils and the stamen, these being located in the central part of the flower. These parts will hinder and take away from the taste of the rest of the flower. You should then leave the flower as it is until just before eating to reduce the level of wilt of the petals. When you are ready to garnish your dish or add in the petals to the recipe you can pluck them singularly and introduce them still fresh from the main flower.
So which flowers are edible?
The petals as well as the leaves are edible and are a great way to add a unique flair to salads or as a garnish. Violets can also be used as an ingredient for flavoured teas and jellies.
Originally found in America, these circular buds have been a fundamental ingredient of the Native American diet. Rose hips contain a high level of vitamin C and can be dried for easy storage. In more modern terms, rose hips can be used to make great flavoured ice cubes.
Both the flowers and the leaves are edible, having a fragrant yet delicate taste. Agastache flowers are perfect as an addition to cakes due to the hint of anise flavouring. Alternatively the leaves and the flowers can be mixed in with whipped cream to create a liquorice, creamy taste. As this flower can be considered an herb, pregnant women should always seek the advice of a medical professional before consuming.
These flowers can be found in many different colours and are best used as a garnish for salads or as decoration for drinks.
These flowers are brightly coloured in appearance and have a delicate lemon taste. The petals can be used as decoration for salads or sandwiches or are sometimes dipped in complimentary flavoured yoghurt and served as an appetiser. It is important that only the petals from the tuberous begonia flower are used and should only be consumed in moderation. The petals naturally contain oxalic acid and therefore should be steered clear of by those who suffer from kidney stones, rheumatism or gout.
Carnations or Dianthus
Typically the taste is likened to a clove like flavour which is spicy yet floral. These petals can be applied to many uses from the decoration of cakes and as a garnish for soups and salads, to stir fries, ice creams, sorbets and sauces. Generally the petals will feature a white section at the base which should be removed as it tends to have a bitter taste.
The small petals should be pulled apart to create colourful garnishes for soups, salads, cakes, mousses and savoury dishes. If you suffer from asthma or hay fever you should avoid these flowers as they may cause an adverse reaction and trigger symptoms.
These flowers have no noticeable fragrance however do have a sweet yet spicy taste. The best way to use these flowers is to mix with other complimenting petals and use as a colourful garnish to salads, pasta dishes or omelettes.
Although these flowers are colourful they have much the same taste as lettuce so can liven up and compliment any green leaf salad dish.
The petals of the fuchsia can be used in a variety of ways with maximum effect. The vivid colour and graceful shape make these petals an ideal garnish for salads and can also be crystallised to be inserted into a jelly. It is not only the petals that are edible but also the berries which can be used to make jam. Before adding to a dish the petals should have all of the green and brown sections to ensure that the taste is maximised.
The petals of the hibiscus flower can be used to make tasty teas or to add a colourful flair to green salads. The whole flower can be used instead of just the petals however you should beware of the pollen which will be present.
The petals of this flower do require some preparation before eating. They give the best taste when lightly fried in vegetable oil before being introduced to stir fries, soups or salads. The flowers do have quite a strong taste so always use sparingly and remember that a little goes a long way. Only the coronarium variety are edible so make sure you know which type you have before serving it to your customers.
The hollyhock flowers are a great ingredient for subtle syrups to accompany desserts however can also work equally as well as decoration for cakes, mousses or as a salad garnish.
Lavender is well known for encouraging a peaceful and relaxing sleep and also for its delightful aroma however can bring a new taste element to certain dishes. When added to vegetable stocks it creates a perfect accompaniment for sauces to pour over duck, chicken or lamb. There is also scope to make a lavender sugar which is delicious when served with biscuits, jams, jellies or sorbets. The oil from the lavender plant can be poisonous when too much is ingested, so only use sparingly in dishes.
The typical citrus taste of the marigold petals lends itself perfectly to seafood dishes, sandwiches and salads. Marigolds can become harmful when eaten in large quantities so should only be consumed sparingly and in moderation.
Lilac works well when mixed in cream cheese and served with crackers or when stirred together with yoghurt. Lilac can also make a perfect decoration and garnish for cakes, sweets, scones or biscuits.
The flowers of the pansy taste similar to lettuce and therefore work well as a colourful addition and a unique twist to a traditional green salad. The petals can also be crystallised to use as attractive decoration for desserts, cookies or cakes.
Roses are perhaps one of the most popular flowers on the market however are generally to look at and not eat. The general rule of thumb is that if it smells good, it will also taste good. The petals can be used to make jam, as a decoration for chilled drinks and can also be crystallised to make a perfect cake decoration. Some petals may have a white patch at the base which should be removed before adding to a dish as this will hinder and impair the overall flavour.
The seeds of a sunflower are widely eaten already so why not introduce the rest of the flower also. The petals can add a flash of colour to green salads and will introduce a mildly nutty flavour. The green buds are similar in taste to the Jerusalem artichoke and are best served blanched and then tossed in a little garlic butter.
The flavour of the petals of the tulip resembles the taste of sweet peas and can be introduced to accompany shrimp, chicken, salads and sandwiches. The bulbs of the tulip should never be eaten. Some people will have a strong allergic reaction to tulips and will break out in a rash or localised numbness. If you are uncertain as to whether guests have an allergy or not, it is best to err on the side of caution and exclude them from the dish.
The white flowers of the yucca plant have a hint of artichoke to their taste and provide a crunchy and mildly sweet taste to salads or as a garnish to a dish.
The petals of the viola give a flash of colour to monotone dishes and provide a unique garnish to desserts or pates.
*Always consult a professional before consuming any flowers!*
Members of the public may have different allergies which they are unaware of, having never tried flowers before therefore adding flowers to your restaurant dishes should be done so with a word of caution to your customers. There are many flowers out there which can add an individual aspect to dishes and can effectively introduce a new dimension to some traditional classics. This information does not mean that you should raid your local garden and eat all flowers in sight; some are not for consuming and can have nasty side effects. Experiment with some of the safer flowers before unleashing your new ideas on your customers and ask for feedback from sample tasters to gauge their opinions and whether the introduction of flowers to your dishes could prove to be beneficial and profitable for your business.