Recently, I was spoilt by a delicious lunch made by my friends at the Port Phillip EcoCentre. They cooked up a yummy lentil and pumpkin rice dish and served up an amazing side salad using edible flowers. I’ve always admired edible flowers but have never really thought about growing them in my garden and using them in my cooking. But after a trip to the nursery today, that’s all about to change!
Each edible flower has its own flavour and use, here are a few common species to get you started:
Pansies (Viola tricolour)
Heartsease, violas and pansies with their pussycat faces are the perfect flowers to decorate your salad. They come in a range of colours, which makes for interesting dishes.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
This family has delicious spicy flowers, which add a spicy peppery taste to salads.
Carnations (Dianthus spp)
These flowers have an old-fashioned sweet clove scent, petals can be trimmed and add to salads and sandwiches.
Rose (Rosa spp)
Roses are renown for their delicate perfumes and smooth rosy flavour which add a romantic colour and fragrance to salads.
Scented Geraniums (Pelargonium spp)
These flowers come in a range of unmistakable scents such as peppermint, apple, guava and rose. The flowers assume a similar flavor to the fragrance of the leaves.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
These flowers have a distinct taste of rosemary, their beautiful blue colour makes them a hit as an edible garnish with baked vegetables.
Other edible flower varieties are Borage, Chrysanthemum, Chinese Jasmine, Hibiscus, Red Poppy, Mimosa, Violets, Orange or Apple Blossom, Lavender and many more.
Using edible flowers safely:
1. If unsure what a flower is, don’t eat it – there are many common garden flowers which are toxic to eat. For example, calendulas (marigolds) are OK to eat, but tagetes are also called marigolds and they are toxic.
2. The safest flowers to eat are the ones you have grown yourself, at home, and have used no toxic sprays.
3. Flowers from florists are not a good idea to eat, as the floristry industry uses pesticides.
4. Remove the pistil and stamens from flowers before eating them. The petals are the safest part to eat, and they look best in a salad, too.
5. Wash flowers before eating them, but only pick the flowers just before you want to add them to a salad. If they are looking a bit wilty, dip them into iced water to refresh them.
6. The best way to use most edible flowers is as a garnish for a garden salad.