BELMONT, N.Y. — The weather is finally warming and with that we are seeing the flowers start to bloom with all the pretty colors that we love. But are the blooms all there is to enjoy? My answer to that is absolutely not! Not only are some of the flowers beautiful but tasty as well, some with flavors that will delight your palate. Some of our readers may have already tasted some and some not, but I hope to interest you into trying some. You can use them in recipes or as garnishments but either way I hope to entice you to try some.
First some warnings:
- You should NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat.
- Never harvest flowers growing by the roadside.
- Not every flower is edible and avoid ones you may be allergic to, just like foods, you may be allergic to a flower.
- You should identify the flower exactly and eat only edible flowers and edible parts of those flowers.
- Always remember to use flowers sparingly in your recipes due to the digestive complications that can occur with a large consumption rate.
There are many kinds of flowers and their parts that are edible but since I can’t list them all here, I will list some of my favorites. I have included a link to “What’s Cooking America” where you can get a more comprehensive list of edible flowers. If you haven’t tried these, give them a chance. I have personally made the most scrumptious jelly from flower blossoms, mmm.
Apple Blossoms (Malus species) – Apple Blossoms have a delicate floral flavor and aroma. They are a nice accompaniment to fruit dishes and can easily be candied to use as a garnish. NOTE: Eat in moderation as the flowers may contain cyanide precursors. The seeds of the apple fruit and their wild relations are poisonous.
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) -Both flowers and leaves have a delicate anise or licorice flavor. Some people say the flavor reminds them of root beer. The blossoms make attractive plate garnishes and are often used in Chinese-style dishes. Excellent in salads.
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – Also called Wild Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, Horsemint, Monarda. Wild bee balm tastes like oregano and mint. The taste of bee balm is reminiscent of citrus with soft mingling of lemon and orange. The red flowers have a minty flavor. Any place you use oregano, you can use bee balm blossoms. The leaves and flower petals can also be used in both fruit and regular salads. The leaves taste like the main ingredient in Earl Gray Tea and can be used as a substitute.
Begonia – Tuberous begonias and Waxed begonias: (Begonia X tuberosa) – The leaves, flowers, and stems are edible. Begonia blossoms have a citrus-sour taste. The petals are used in salads and as a garnish. Stems, also, can be used in place of rhubarb. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – Also called Marigolds. A wonderful edible flower. Flavors range from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Their sharp taste resembles saffron (also known as Poor Man’s Saffron). Has pretty petals in golden-orange hues. Sprinkle them on soups, pasta or rice dishes, herb butters, and salads. Petals add a yellow tint to soups, spreads, and scrambled eggs. Only the petals are edible.
Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus – aka Dianthus) – Carnations can be steeped in wine, candy, or use as cake decoration. To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Dianthus are the miniature member of the carnation family with light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Petals add color to salads or aspics. Carnation petals are one of secret ingredients that has been used to make Chartreuse, a French liqueur, since the 17th century.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) – Member of the Daisy family. Flowers are sweetest when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. Dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers: best to pick these when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball. Good raw or steamed. Also made into wine and delicious jelly. Young leaves taste good steamed, or tossed in salads. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.
Elderberry Blossoms (Sambucus spp) – The blossoms are a creamy color and have a sweet scent and sweet taste. When harvesting elderberry flowers, do not wash them as that removes much of the fragrance and flavor. Instead check them carefully for insects. The fruit is used to make wine. The flowers, leaves, berries, bark and roots have all been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries. NOTE: All other parts of this plant, except the berries, are mildly toxic! They contain a bitter alkaloid and glycoside that may change into cyanide. The cooked ripe berries of the edible elders are harmless. Eating uncooked berries may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The blossoms make a wonderful fried fritter.
Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) – The flowers have a sweet flavor. They can be used as a garnish in salads or floated in drinks.
Johnny-Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor) – Lovely yellow, white and purple blooms have a mild wintergreen flavor and can be used in salads, to decorate cakes, or served with soft cheese. They are also a great addition to drinks, soups, desserts or salads.
Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) – The flavor of lilacs varies from plant to plant. Very fragrant, slightly bitter. Has a distinct lemony taste with floral, pungent overtones. Great in salads and crystallized with egg whites and sugar.
Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) – In China the fallen petals are parboiled and sweetened as a tea-time delicacy. Peony water was used for drinking in the middle ages. Add peony petals to your summer salad or try floating in punches and lemonades.
Roses (Rosa rugosa or R. gallica officinalis) – Flavors depend on type, color, and soil conditions. Flavor reminiscent of strawberries and green apples. Sweet, with subtle undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice. All roses are edible, with the flavor being more pronounced in the darker varieties. In miniature varieties can garnish ice cream and desserts, or larger petals can be sprinkled on desserts or salads. Freeze them in ice cubes and float them in punches also. Petals used in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads. NOTE: Be sure to remove the bitter white portion of the petals.
Squash Blossoms (Curcubita pepo) – Squash and pumpkin blossoms are edible and taste mildly of raw squash. Prepare the blossoms by washing and trimming the stems and remove the stamens. Squash blossoms are usually taken off the male plant, which only provides pollen for the female.
Violets (Viola species) – Sweet, perfumed flavor. Related flowers, Johnny jump-ups or violas, and pansies now come in colorful purples and yellows to apricot and pastel hues. Eat the tender leaves and flowers in salads. Use the flowers to beautifully embellish desserts, in jelly and iced drinks. Freeze them in punches to delight children and adults alike. All of these flowers make pretty adornments for frosted cakes, sorbets, or any other desserts, and they may be crystallized as well. Heart-shaped leaves are edible, and tasty when cooked like spinach.
For those of you who don’t use the internet I have added the basic recipe for making jelly. Those of you that use the internet I have included a good web site to go to for instructions.
Making Wildflower Jelly:
Gather about two cups of edible flowers or herbs. This part is where you get to let your creativity shine – use whatever you want to use, and in whatever combination you choose. A jelly made from rose petals, citrus blossoms, and passionflowers is lovely. Hibiscus, red clover, and bee balm would be delicious, too. The choice is all yours! Bring your flowers and herbs inside and give them a rinse and roughly chop them. You should have at least a cup of roughly chopped herbs when you are done, and no more than two.
Prepare your water bath canner and sanitize your jars and lids. Put four cups of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Remove it from heat and add your chopped herbs or flowers. Give it all a stir, close the lid, and let your tea steep for at least an hour.
Strain the liquid into a bowl. I suggest that you use cheesecloth, or a coffee filter while straining to ensure that all the tiny bits are removed.
2 ¾ cups of your herbal infusion
¼ cup of lemon juice (about one medium lemon)
3 ½ cups of sugar
1 packet of pectin
Directions: Pour the infusion into a medium-sized cooking pot, and turn it up to a medium-high heat. Add the lemon juice and the pectin to the pot. Stir the mixture well. Add the sugar and stir constantly until it returns to a rolling boil. Let it boil for one minute, and remove from heat. Carefully pour or ladle the hot jelly into the jars. Wipe the rim with a clean cloth, and top each one with a sterilized lid. Process your jars as you wish. I prefer to use a hot water canning bath, using the instructions in the pectin box. Let the jars rest for 24 hours before you pick them up or move them around. After that, enjoy your flower jelly!
Used with permission: https://whatscookingamerica.net/EdibleFlowers
Used with permission: www.theherbalacademy.com/make-it-wildflower-jelly
–Carol Sitarski, Master Gardener Volunteer
Allegany County CCE
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